Applying minimalism to technology

Technology is a huge part of our lives now whether you like it or not. And it has also start to cause issues in terms of our health and well-being. This is why there is this rise in people talking about digital minimalism.

And I’m here to add my voice to that pool.

It is without doubt that I love technology ever since I came in contact with computers in the early 1990s. There were times when I want to buy every gadgets that I like. And I like to have the latest and greatest. Thus, I would willingly go into debt just so that I can buy that. Best part is, it didn’t matter if I would be maximising my purchase.

But as time progresses and you getting older, it has this funny way of make you relook at things. Getting the latest of every gadget was and is no longer something that I put so much emphasis on. And I came to understand and appreciate the pain associated with earning the money necessary to fund that behaviour. My contact with minimalism late 2017 further change how I look at and own technological products.

Buying the latest and greatest is something that I still do. But, what I don’t do is buying the latest and greatest from every single technology company that I get to know and read about. And what I don’t do is to buy a device just so that it fulfil that one function I care about, which ultimately lead me down the road where I have different devices on hand to serve different purposes. Last but not least, I don’t buy cheap technological products.

And as with all minimalists, the thing that you ultimately own has to improve your life or bring joy. To ensure that, I have to be very clear about my values and make the purchase only when they align with what I care about.

The product’s build quality and design are the first two things I focus on. The product has to feel solid and attention has been paid to every detail. The product has to look great and fit into my existing collections of devices. Then, depending on the context, the product also has to offer better security and privacy than the competition. The product has to be the best in the category the company has intended it for: performance, experience, functions, etc. And last but not least, the product has to be able to help me consolidate, or in other words, reduce the amount of technological products I need to have for various use cases or functionality. Finally, I look at price.

By applying that methodology, it allows me to be intentional about my purchase of the latest and greatest products. And that also meant I end up only buying one specific company’s products because they fulfil all my requirements. So even if the competition offer something even better, let’s say, more features at a lower cost, I ignore that.

Through this manner of applying minimalism, the products I do own are longer lasting and I save resources in the long run despite high cost of the purchase.

To put into perspective, let’s say you pay $4000 for a computer compared to paying $2000 for a computer. With the $4000 computer, due to its higher quality material and better manufacturing process, it last you 3 years. On the other hand, the $2000 computer last you 3 years but require you to send it for maintenance or repair every few months after the first year. When you look at things in this manner, you will realise the process of sending something for repair cost time and money. Then if the computer is your primary machine, you lose productivity too. Not to mention, the emotional impact of having to deal with these kind of inconvenience.

You might think, what if I buy two cheaper computers? Then I will have a backup. Sure, but why waste the physical space and clutter your area? What are the odds of the first computer breaking down that require you to switch? And how often do you switch? Do you want to bring both computers out with you? And what about the time you are going to waste to ensure both computers are running the same software and have the same data?

So let’s say you agree with me and you got a better quality product that contribute to you living happier, help protect the environment and achieve a more focus life. What’s next?

The answer is continue to apply minimalism to the products you already own.

With the rate of technological progress, you will find yourself dealing with lots of junk. Old hardware that doesn’t work anymore, boxes and cables.

For old hardware, you can and should dispose them responsibly if they don’t work. If the hardware works, then sell it off on the re-sale market to get some cash back or give it someone who need it.

As for boxes, well, if they belong to old products that you no longer use, then it’s high time you recycle them. If they belong to products you’ve recently bought, then it’s best to keep them until the end of warranty period so that you have an easy way of shipping the hardware back to the company if there is a need for repair. But don’t let me stop you from discarding it all together.

Then there is the cables. Throughout my life of owning technological product, I always find myself having more cables than there are devices. Not only that, just imagine the sight of dozens of cables running across the floor, on your desks and along the wall. Isn’t that a form of clutter? Not to mention, they are unsightly and pose safety issues. What if you trip over the cables?

There are two approaches to this. And I’m assuming you don’t keep cables that you no longer use.

You can attempt to do cable management. That means you have to spend time and effort to route the cables such that they are out of the way, looks great and still works as you want them to. If you enjoy doing such a thing, then sure, go ahead. But to me, it’s just organised clutter. Not very minimalistic.

The other approach would be to go wireless. Using wireless technology will contribute to your decluttering process because of the reduced need to run cables everywhere. Not only that, it also free up space that could be used for other purpose. Or it could simply be left as it is. An empty space. The latter is definitely a better sight than cables running everywhere.

However, there are several problems with wireless technology.

The first issue is that under certain circumstances, wireless connections may not work as well as wired connection because of the possibility of signal interference. For example, Bluetooth and traditional WiFi both uses 2.4 GHz radio waves. And WiFi waves are much stronger in strength and that could cancel out your Bluetooth signals, causing disconnection. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about that because it’s physics.

The other issue would be security and privacy. Because it relies on radio waves, another person could hijack and listen in on the transmissions between devices. To help mitigate that, you would have to get products made by companies that requires authentication during wireless connection and subsequently encrypt that connection. So far, the only company I know that does this as best as they could for their products would be Apple.

If you are okay with these two issues or that they don’t affect you that much, then there’s nothing stopping you from making that leap.

But that doesn’t mean you get to buy cheap wireless products. They are technological products. Apply the same quality-seeking methodology when it comes to the purchases. This way, you reduce your nightmares, contribute to your quality of life and overall happiness.

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