I have been a minimalist for a year now and I have seen this movement gain more attraction as social media continues to empower the lifestyle. Life for me has been simpler and I have paid attention to what matters most. The distractions of digital advertising no longer bother me, and I don’t feel the constant need to have the latest technology, fashion, etc. What is minimalism and how can you apply it to your lifestyle? Minimalism is all about paying attention to what matters most and taking out things in your life that don’t add value. In my eyes, the goal is to stop being exposed to all the noise and paying attention to yourself. I have personally deleted social media off my phone. I know that may sound extreme for a 21-year-old in a digital age society. But I still set an hour for me every day to have my indulgence of funny pictures and cooking on Instagram.
The Growth of Minimalism
Minimalism came into the spotlight in the 1960s as an artistic style. Artist started simplifying their paintings to create a focus on the piece at work (Wolf, 2019). People loved it because of how unique the art form was at the time. The actual lifestyle of minimalism could be from Monks or Buddhas. If you think about it a man with a bald head, no furniture, and his sole focus every day was praying is quite a minimalist lifestyle. The first man did not have a lot of things and his sole purpose was surviving. We have come a long way from the basic and simple living. We create needs that aren’t relevant for survival in our digital age. It is important to get back to simplicity before we lose ourselves in our technology. Simple living has always been around, but the lifestyle did not present itself online until 2016.
Social media spreading the movement
The online presence for social media was what really kickstarted the movement. Thousands of people were able to share their story and perspective of becoming a minimalist. My personal favorite person to follow is Matt D’Avella. He was the director of the award-winning Netflix documentary Minimalism and now has the fastest growing YouTube channel in October of 2018. His channel is currently at 1,045,791 subscribers and growing. The channel displays a variety of videos ranging from lifestyle, humor, and podcasts. Every upload has the foundation of minimalism and you can check out more here. The biggest blog and podcast for aspiring minimalist would be the “The Minimalists” by Josh and Ryan. Their blog is all about their journey to find happiness through minimalism. To explain the purpose of their blog in one quote by Josh “Use things love people because the opposite never works” (Fields & Nicodemus, 2010). This is how they end every podcast and it is the biggest takeaway from their perspective of minimalism. Their audience is so massive that they don’t even use any advertising in their content. They make money through a Patreon account where people can sign up and donate money. Josh and Ryan have been so successful telling their journey online, they are now traveling the world doing conferences about minimalism. The biggest Facebook page on minimalism would be “becoming minimalist”. The page has 1,370,664 likes and 1,397,332 followers. In terms of growing the minimalist movement through social media, this is the page. The site is run by Joshua Becker who has a family that follows the minimalist lifestyle. The page has gained so much traction because it is evidence that a family can practice minimalism. These groups that I mentioned have grown so quickly with the power of social media. Their goal ironically is to stop people from following social media. Specifically following people and companies that are promoting consumerism.
The first digital promotion of American consumerism was done through the television (Mahmood, 2006). Advertisement agencies pay 5 million dollars to get a 30-second spot on this year’s super bowl (Schwartz, 2019). Big businesses know the impact of showing their brand on your tv. American society views shopping as a form of being happy and that is why advertisements play a big role in influencing our everyday lives. We all get thrilled about bringing in something new in our lives. With the help of social media, the movement of shopping as well has been dominating our lifestyles. For example, companies created Black Friday which is an event that takes place after Thanksgiving where companies slice their prices in half to get people to buy. During this time of the year, we see these deals presented to us a week in advance on our television, social media, and random ad pop-ups. Companies invest highly in technology that could keep us under the influence of fake happiness.
There has been so much noise in our digital age. Advertisements for clothes and electronics are constantly popping up in our social media feeds. Twitter accounts and Facebook posts that promote products are usually automated with bots. A bot is a software that can perform actions automatically and at a large scale (Howard & Kollanyi, 2016). The sheer output of bots promoting advertising has several negative effects. The volume of advertising online is reducing attention and comprehension. (Feinberg, 2019). I have experienced the impulse of looking at an advertisement or a product that pops up on my feed and I am sure you have felt the same. I was a conditioned clicker that got a sense of satisfaction when opening up a new tab to view a product that could possibly bring me more happiness. As I kept clicking onto more ads one after the other, I was eventually stuck in my own echo chamber.
Unfortunately, most people with a social media account are stuck in an echo chamber. An echo chamber is an environment in which a person only views beliefs or opinions that they agree with to reinforce the ideas they always believed (Parker, 2017). As we continue to view more products online, they will pop up in our social media feeds or around the edges of a site that we view. This tactic of constantly feeding people what they wanted or considered buying is extremely effective. For example, maybe you thought about buying a new car and you were looking to buy a Ferrari, but it was too expensive therefore you didn’t buy. A couple of hours later you get ads of Ferrari’s popping up on your social media feed. You then start shopping again because of the convivence of the placement of the ads. You eventually end up buying the Ferrari a couple of months later because of the constant feed of advertising. This is highly unfair, you weren’t able to view other cars like a Honda Civic because you were trapped in a chamber of Ferrari advertisements. Maybe you didn’t even want to buy a car in the first place, but the constant viewing of a new car created a need. As you can tell it is important to recognize that we all can be in an echo chamber right now. The influence we create for ourselves are supplemented by technology but ultimately, we have the decision. If we can choose to minimize the amount of social media and online presence, we can take a step further from echo chambers.
Challenging status quo
Minimalism has been challenging the status quo of consumerism since its huge movement through social media. Millennial spending has actually decreased this past year (Lambarena, 2019). In today’s digital age television is no longer the dominant source of advertising. Social media now rules that space. The minimalist movement is spreading through social media and people are starting to put down their phones and pay attention to others around you. Our phone usage is decreasing due to this movement (Lambarena, 2019). Which means we are less exposed to advertising. Minimalism doesn’t mean to stop using your phone altogether. It means to use your phone intentionally not just a scapegoat to get away from awkwardness when waiting. For many acting upon letting go of distractions in your life such as your phone can be very challenging. It is not normal in our society to not have a phone our or surf through social media in every ounce of free time we have. It is not normal to stop paying for amazon prime because you don’t buy as much online because you can control your impulsive shopping. Using our phones, surfing through social media, and spending our money on things we don’t need is what brings happiness to millennials. If you feel like that, I am wrong look around next time you’re in a room filled with people. Now that you have come to the realization of the problem we have, it is time to take action steps.
What can you do?
The best thing we can do to get away from the abundance of consumerism in our digital society is to take a break. I would recommend taking a social media detox which ironically became a popular challenge spread through social media. I myself have taken this challenge to the extreme. I’ve been off social media for 90 days. The goal for me was to learn to make social media not a habit and make my use intentional. I wanted to be able to prevent myself from the exposure of consumerism online. There will be many challenges to this detox. I remember I use to leave my phone at home, and I had a twitch to reach into my pocket only to feel nothing. You will get anxious at first, but hopefully, you start to realize how much you relied on this technology. The best part is that you become more aware of others that have their head down staring mindlessly into their phones. Maybe you start talking more to others when waiting in a line and make new friends. I would recommend tracking your productivity. Maybe you will see an improvement in your grades because your less distracted in your studies.
Minimalism is a fast pace growing movement around the world. Social media and the internet have taken the minimalist art form and transformed it into a lifestyle admired by millions. The premise of only bringing into your life that adds value and letting go of the rest is challenging the status quo. American consumerism has always brought happiness and it is the reason why people buy and have so many things. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to the people around as much compared to the things we have such as our phones. Hopefully, for those looking at their phones right now are being exposed to this idea of minimalism. After all true happiness comes from people. So, take a break from your phone and save some money because you’re not paying attention to ads. Minimalism can be implemented in different ways in everybody’s life so take a chance. If you are to remember one thing from this blog remember this, “Use things love people because the opposite never works” (Fields & Nicodemus, 2010).
Mahmood, R. (2006). Money Talks, Culture Walks: The Elevation of Consumerism Over Culture on American Television. Conference Papers -- International Communication Association, 1–39. Retrieved from https://login.libproxy.uncg.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=27204353&site=ehost-live
Chae, I., Bruno, H. A., & Feinberg, F. M. (2019). Wearout or Weariness? Measuring Potential Negative Consequences of Online Ad Volume and Placement on Website Visits. Journal of Marketing Research (JMR), 56(1), 57–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022243718820587
By MELISSA LAMBARENA of NerdWallet -. (2019). Millennial money: Minimalism can declutter finances, too. AP Financial News. Associated Press DBA Press Association. Retrieved from https://login.libproxy.uncg.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=n5h&AN=AP7bc05ee8886740a2a2b9507f65ba76f1&site=ehost-live
Parker, E. (2017, May 22). In praise of echo chambers. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/05/22/in-praise-of-echo-chambers/?utm_term=.4657094cd971
Howard, P.N., & Kollanyi, B. (2016). Bots, #StrongerIn, and #Brexit: Computational Propaganda during the UK-EU Referendum. COMPROP Research Note, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2798311
D'Avella, Matt (2011). “Matt D'Avella.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/user/blackboxfilmcompany/featured.
Fields, J., & Nicodemus, R. (2010). The Minimalists. Retrieved from https://www.theminimalists.com/
Loggains, S. (n.d.). Becoming minimalist. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/becomingminimalist/
Wolf, J. (2019). Minimalism Movement Overview. Retrieved from https://www.theartstory.org/movement-minimalism.htm
Schwartz, N. (2019, February 04). How much does a 2019 Super Bowl commercial cost? Retrieved from https://ftw.usatoday.com/2019/02/2019-super-bowl-commercial-cost