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Netflix:’The Minimalists: Less is Now’ and how to Simplify in the age of a Digital Ad Avalanche



Above: Photo Collage / Lynxotic / Adobe Stock

Streaming documentaries that satisfy are rare

One noteworthy film released by Netflix so far in 2021 is “The Minimalists: Less is Now”. Made by the creative duo Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the documentary takes a look at overconsumption and how the two blogger / podcaster / filmmakers came to their new careers as minimalist advisors for the masses. 

Click to see “Everything That Remains”. Also available on Amazon.

There’s been a bit of a wave of minimalism of late which seems to be rising in tandem with trends like Marie Kondo’s de-cluttering advice and ‘joy in the act of tidying up’. This roughly corresponds in some ways with the aligned philosophical surge of interest in Stoicism, which has seen renewed interest in recent times, perhaps due to the same forces of chaos and overconsumption that led the minimalist duo to begin their de-cluttered lifestyles.

Read more: Joy is the Only Goal

A further, only partially explored connection from the film, is the influence of digital advertising, social media and the current unfolding crisis due to the massive big tech monopolies controlling our world. The hit Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” itself does not do a lot more than scratch the surface of the problems and issues of social media and big tech dominance, and, clearly, would be beyond the scope the less ambitious “The Minimalists: Less is Now”.

Kudos for taking on big subjects and paring down to digestible fare

However, one of the threads of the film does deal with the perceived issues of increasingly more manipulative ad systems and more powerful, targeted, barrage of messages to buy that emanate throughout our lives from Facebook, Google and Amazon, who they point out in the film control over 70% of all digital advertising. 

The primary threads in the film are the twin biographical stories of the two authors, who were best friends since childhood, interspersed with interview footage from various experts in the ways that our culture can lead to overconsumption and unhappiness, even as we all try to chase the American dream. 

In the end, the film is an enjoyable and thought provoking introduction to the ethos “less is now” and how to benefit from having a de-cluttered life. The personal and conversational presentation using the filmmakers’ personal stories and presenting them with both on camera confessional footage as well as illustrative “flashbacks” is perhaps the largest factor that makes this a satisfying, if light-hearted, journey into self-betterment through less.  

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