Last Saturday, rather than my usual sleep late-and-brunch routine, I headed to a wellness event at New York’s Sky Ting Yoga studio. There were a bunch of health-oriented classes and workshops on offer (facials too!), but the one talk that really caught my attention was on the topic of digital minimalism, wifi-induced radiation exposure, and why we all need to Marie Kondo the hell out of our phone habits.
The chat was led by Shannon Vaughn, founder of Pursoma—a beauty brand designed to combat “urban toxicity.” She had some interesting things to say about the need for millennials to become “digital minimalists” to feel less tethered to (and anxious about) social media, but also to reduce exposure to radiation. And yes guys, I know the concept of “digital minimalism” is almost eye-rolling and painfully millennial, but there really may be some legitimacy here. Right now there aren’t any long-term, large-scale human studies on the impact of mobile phone use and subsequent radiation exposure (kind of hard considering how new the technology is!), but plenty of experts agree with the view that there are possible risks associated with both.
Ahead, we chatted with Shannon to find out why you should be concerned, and how to declutter your digital life.
Sporteluxe: Let’s start at the beginning. What is digital minimalism?
Shannon Vaughn: Cal Newport [an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University] wrote an article for Thrive Global, which describes digital minimalism as, “a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools add the most value to your life”. I relate this concept very close to what Marie Kondo did with clutter in “The Art of Tidying Up”. Her unique approach was to have you pick up an item and say, “does this bring me joy”? I believe you can take the same approach to become a digital minimalist.
If that new app, posting on social media, or reading excess news does not bring you joy, then get rid of it. This can be done by minimizing the tools that are not bringing you joy or value in your life, socially or professionally.
I have many friends that constantly complain about how social media stresses them out. However, we are afraid to disconnect due to the fear of being left out. I believe a shift is occurring, an internal awareness is rebounding. People are getting to the point where they are starting to understand that disconnecting is becoming as essential as sleeping. The mind and body need to rest.
Image from Instagram user @pursoma
What are some signs that an individual should try and digitally declutter?
There comes a point where you may realize that you’re too distracted and too stressed out. You may feel as if your digital tools are dominating your life. It’s time to clean up and get back to the basics.
You spoke about digital minimalism and digital noise in your workshop—could you explain what that is and why it’s relevant to millennials right now?
I had to take some time to examine all the digital tools I was using on a daily basis. All the apps, all the downloads, all the functions that were supposed to make me connect to the world, and essentially help me function quicker in a digital world. What I discovered is a lot of second-rate noise. Second rate digital noise that was burdening my mind and distracting me from focusing on work and my downtime.
I minimized what was needed for work, and what I enjoyed socially. By all means, if Snapchat is your way to connect to your friends, as well as other types of social network, then use it. But you don’t need to use all these applications—you shouldn’t have to feel obligated to constantly update and use on a regular basis. Just the thought of this makes me fatigued!
Could you please explain what the term “electro smog” refers to and how it impacts city dwellers?
Electrosmog is part of environmental toxicity. It is included but is not limited to other toxins, such as pollution, poor water quality, and the constant electromagnetic frequencies surrounding us in our ever growing WiFi-enabled lives. It impacts us socially, in that we are always able to connect in coffee shops, in stores, in hotels, and now on the streets. It’s a constant connection that entices you to constantly check your device. There is almost never a time when we’re not receiving signals, which lead to the steady stream of notifications, news, emails, and alerts.
Do you think we should be worried about radiation from wireless devices? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there.
The organization, EHtrust that I work closely with provides excellent educational information on why we should be concerned about radiation from wireless devices. It is known that every wireless device is a two-way microwave radio that sends and receives a type of electromagnetic radiation called radio frequency radian RF- EMF. This machine- made radiation millions of times higher than the natural electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that our grandparents were exposed to. The evidence and research provided have led to concern. In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer first classified cell phone and wireless radiation as a “class 2 B Possible Human Carcinogen”. The study showed that long-term users had higher rates of cancer on the side of the head where they use their phone.
In 2014, a group of U.S. physicians helped launch The Baby Safe Project, issuing a specific recommendation to pregnant woman on how to decrease wireless exposure, in order to decrease risk to babies’ development. In 2015, over 200 scientist and medical doctors signed onto a formal Appeal to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, calling them to take immediate action on this issue.
Although this research sounds alarming, we can find a balance. We do not have to give up our technology but we can make smarter choices about the way we use it. Every person can easily decrease exposure to this radiation by making simple changes every day.
How can we become digital minimalists and reduce our exposure?
- Get a battery alarm clock and stop keep your phone next to your pillow at night.
- Make use of airplane mode, keep Bluetooth off.
- Turn off your devices while driving.
- Keep WiFi routers away from sleeping quarters, turning it off completely at night.
- One-hour before sleep do not look at any type of technology will help with a better sleep ritual.
- Put away the Kindle, opt for reading a book.
- Slow down, spend some time in nature.
- Delete apps you don’t need to reduce the time spent on your phone.
- Use hands-free when talking on your phone.