Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons


Translator: Peter van de Ven
Reviewer: Denise RQ You probably don’t realize that right now, you’re actually
looking at something quite rare. Because I am a millennial
computer scientist book author standing on a TEDx stage, and yet, I’ve never had
a social media account. How this happened
was actually somewhat random. Social media first came onto my radar
when I was at college, my sophomore year of college, this is when Facebook
arrived at our campus. And at the time, which was
right after the first dotcom bust, I had had a dorm room business,
I’d had to shut it down in the bust, and then, suddenly, this other kid
from Harvard, named Mark, had this product called Facebook
and people being excited about it. So in sort of a fit of somewhat
immature professional jealousy, I said, “I’m not going to use this thing. I won’t help this kid’s business;
whatever’s going to amount to.” As I go along my life,
I look up not long later, and I see everyone I know
is hooked on this thing. And from the clarity you can get when you have some objectivity,
some perspective on it, I realized this seems
a little bit dangerous. So I never signed up. I’ve never had
a social media account since. So I’m here for two reasons;
I want to deliver two messages. The first message I want to deliver is that even though I’ve never had
a social media account, I’m OK, you don’t have to worry. It turns out I still have friends, I still know what’s going on in the world; as a computer scientist I still collaborate with people
all around the world, I’m still regularly exposed
serendipitously to interesting ideas, and I rarely describe myself
as lacking entertainment options. So I’ve been OK,
but I’d go even farther and say not only I am OK without social media
but I think I’m actually better off. I think I’m happier, I think I find
more sustainability in my life, and I think I’ve been
more successful professionally because I don’t use social media. So my second goal here on stage is try to convince more of you
to believe the same thing. Let’s see if I could actually
convince more of you that you too would be better off
if you quit social media. So, if the theme of this TEDx event
is “Future Tense,” I guess, in other words,
this would be my vision of the future, would be one in which fewer people
actually use social media. That’s a big claim,
I think I need to back it up. So I thought, what I would do is take the three most
common objections I hear when I suggest to people
that they quit social media, and then for each of these objections,
I’ll try to defuse the hype and see if I can actually
push in some more reality. This is the first
most common objection I hear. That’s not a hermit, that’s actually a hipster web developer
down from 8th Street; I’m not sure. Hipster or hermit?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell. This first objection goes as follows, “Cal, social media is one
of the fundamental technologies of the 21st century. To reject social media would be
an act of extreme [bloodism]. It would be like riding to work
on a horse or using a rotary phone. I can’t take
such a big stance in my life.” My reaction to that objection
is I think that is nonsense. Social media is not
a fundamental technology. It leverages
some fundamental technologies, but it’s better understood as this. Which is to say,
it’s a source of entertainment, it’s an entertainment product. The way that technologist
Jaron Lanier puts it is that these companies
offer you shiny treats in exchange for minutes of your attention
and bites of your personal data, which can then be packaged up and sold. So to say that you don’t use social media
should not be a large social stance, it’s just rejecting one form
of entertainment for others. There should be no more
controversial than saying, “I don’t like newspapers,
I like to get my news from magazines,” or “I prefer to watch cable series,
as opposed to network television series.” It’s not a major political
or social stance to say you don’t use this product. My use of the slot machine image
up here also is not accidental because if you look a little bit closer
at these technologies, it’s not just that they’re
a source of entertainment but they’re a somewhat
unsavory source of entertainment. We now know that many
of the major social media companies hire individuals
called attention engineers, who borrow principles
from Las Vegas casino gambling, among other places, to try to make these products
as addictive as possible. That is the desired
use case of these products: is that you use it in an addictive fashion
because that maximizes the profit that can be extracted
from your attention and data. So it’s not a fundamental technology, it’s just a source of entertainment,
one among many, and it’s somewhat unsavory
if you look a little bit closer. Here’s the second common objection I hear when I suggest that people
quit social media. The objection goes as follows, “Cal, I can’t quit social media because it is vital to my success
in the 21st century economy. If I do not have a well-cultivated
social media brand, people won’t know who I am,
people won’t be able to find me, opportunities won’t come my way, and I will effectively
disappear from the economy.” Again my reaction is once again: this objection also is nonsense. I recently published this book that draws on multiple
different strands of evidence to make the point that,
in a competitive 21st century economy, what the market values is the ability to produce things
that are rare and are valuable. If you produce something
that’s rare and valuable, the market will value that. What the market dismisses,
for the most part, are activities that are easy to replicate
and produce a small amount of value. Well, social media use is the epitome of an easy to replicate activity
that doesn’t produce a lot of value; it’s something that any six-year-old
with a smartphone can do. By definition, the market is not going to give
a lot of value to those behaviors. It’s instead going to reward
the deep, concentrated work required to build real skills and to apply
those skills to produce things – like a craftsman – that are rare and that are valuable. To put it another way:
if you can write an elegant algorithm, if you can write a legal brief
that can change a case, if you can write a thousand words of prose that’s going to fixate
a reader right to the end; if you can look at a sea of ambiguous data and apply statistics,
and pull out insights that could transform a business strategy, if you can do these type of activities
which require deep work, that produce outcomes
that are rare and valuable, people will find you. You will be able to write your own ticket, and build the foundation of a meaningful
and successful professional life, regardless of how many
Instagram followers you have. This is the third comment objection I hear when I suggest to people
that they quit social media; in some sense, I think it might be
one of the most important. This objection goes as follows, “Cal, maybe I agree, maybe you’re right;
it’s not a fundamental technology. Maybe using social media is not
at the core of my professional success. But, you know what? It’s harmless, I have some fun on it
– weird: Twitter’s funny – I don’t even use it that much,
I’m a first adopter, it’s kind of interesting to try it out, and maybe I might miss out
something if I don’t use it. What’s the harm?” Again, I look back and I say:
this objection also is nonsense. In this case, what it misses is
what I think is a very important reality that we need to talk about more frankly, which is that social media brings with it multiple, well-documented,
and significant harms. We actually have to confront
these harms head-on when trying to make decisions about whether or not
we embrace this technology and let it into our lives. One of these harms
that we know this technology brings has to do with your professional success. I just argued before
that the ability to focus intensely, to produce things
that are rare and valuable, to hone skills the market place value on, that this is
what will matter in our economy. But right before that, I argued that social media tools
are designed to be addictive. The actual designed
desired-use case of these tools is that you fragment your attention
as much as possible throughout your waking hours; that’s how these tools
are designed to use. We have a growing amount
of research which tells us that if you spend
large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention – large portions of your day,
breaking up your attention, to take a quick glance, to just check,
– “Let me quickly look at Instagram” – that this can permanently reduce
your capacity for concentration. In other words, you could
permanently reduce your capacity to do exactly the type of deep effort that we’re finding to be
more and more necessary in an increasingly competitive economy. So social media use is not harmless, it can actually have
a significant negative impact on your ability to thrive in the economy. I’m especially worried about this
when we look at the younger generation, which is the most saturated
in this technology. If you lose your ability
to sustain concentration, you’re going to become less and less
relevant to this economy. There’s also psychological harms
that are well documented that social media brings,
that we do need to address. We know from the research literature
that the more you use social media, the more likely you are
to feel lonely or isolated. We know that the constant exposure to your friends carefully curated,
positive portrayals of their life can leave you to feel inadequate,
and can increase rates of depression. And something I think we’re going to be
hearing more about in the near future is that there’s a fundamental mismatch between the way our brains are wired and this behavior
of exposing yourself to stimuli with intermittent rewards
throughout all of your waking hours. It’s one thing to spend a couple of hours
at a slot machine in Las Vegas, but if you bring one with you,
and you pull that handle all day long, from when you wake up to when you go
to bed: we’re not wired from it. It short-circuits the brain, and we’re starting to find
it has actual cognitive consequences, one of them being this sort of
pervasive background hum of anxiety. The canary in the coal mine for this issue
is actually college campuses. If you talk to mental health experts
on college campuses, they’ll tell you that along with the rise
of ubiquitous smartphone use and social media use
among the students on the campus, came an explosion of anxiety-related
disorders on those campuses. That’s the canary in the coal mine. This type of behavior
is a mismatch for our brain wiring and can make you feel miserable. So there’s real cost to social media use; which means when you’re trying to decide,
“Should I use this or not?”, saying it’s harmless is not enough. You actually have to identify
a significantly positive, clear benefit that can outweigh these potential,
completely non-trivial harms. People often ask, “OK, but what is life like
without social media?” That can actually be
a little bit scary to think about. According to people
who went through this process, there can be a few difficult weeks. It actually is like a true detox process. The first two weeks can be uncomfortable: you feel a little bit anxious,
you feel like you’re missing a limb. But after that, things settle down, and actually, life after social media
can be quite positive. There’s two things I can report back
from the world of no social media use. First, it can be quite productive. I’m a professor at a research institution,
I’ve written five books, I rarely work past 5 pm on a weekday. Part of the way I’m trying
to able to pull that off is because it turns out,
if you treat your attention with respect, – so you don’t fragment it;
you allow it to stay whole, you preserve your concentration – when it comes time to work you can do one thing after another,
and do it with intensity, and intensity can be traded for time. It’s surprising how much
you can get done in a eight-hour day if you’re able to give each thing
intense concentration after another. Something else I can report back
from life without social media is that outside of work,
things can be quite peaceful. I often joke I’d be very comfortable
being a 1930s farmer, because if you look at my leisure time, I read the newspaper
while the sun comes up; I listen to baseball on the radio; I honest-to-god sit in a leather chair and read hardcover books at night
after my kids go to bed. It sounds old-fashioned,
but they were onto something back then. It’s actually a restorative, peaceful way
to actually spend your time out of work. You don’t have
the constant hum of stimuli, and the background hum of anxiety
that comes along with that. So life without social media
is really not so bad. If you pull together these threads,
you see my full argument that not everyone, but certainly
much more people than right now, much more people
should not be using social media. That’s because we can first, to summarize, discard with the main concerns that it’s a fundamental
technology you have to use. Nonsense: it’s a slot machine
in your phone. We can discard with this notion
that you won’t get a job without it. Nonsense: anything a six-year-old
with a smartphone can do is not going to be
what the market rewards. And then I emphasized the point
that there’s real harms with it. So it’s not just harmless. You really would have to have
a significant benefit before you would say
this trade-off is worth it. Finally I noted,
that life without social media: there’s real positives associated with it. So I’m hoping that when many of you
actually go through this same calculus, you’ll at least consider
the perspective I’m making right now, which is: many more people
would be much better off if they didn’t use this technology. Some of you might disagree, some of you might have scathing
but accurate critiques of me and my points, and of course, I welcome
all negative feedback. I just ask that you direct
your comments towards Twitter. Thank you. (Applause)

30 Replies to “Quit social media | Dr. Cal Newport | TEDxTysons

  1. I've quit Facebook and Instagram around 2 months ago. And it's been the best thing, I can concentrate on myself it's really been a lot more productive. I have to say tho, that there's a disadvantage on the side of events and what's going on party wise. Most of the people and bars spread their news though Facebook and Instagram and that part has been the hardest

  2. The only social media i use is youtube, but i can confirm, that giving up facebook was one of the best things I could have done for my self esteem and confidence. I felt inadequate because i didnt have many friends, and it would sting when someone i thought liked me unfriended me. Now Im free of all that.

  3. I think the key is moderation. I keep Twitter, not going on except to check messages, Snapchat and messenger to keep open channels of communication. YouTube is like google to me in some ways so I’ll never give that up

  4. I joined a social media platform around 9 years ago and I feel that it is not worth my time. In total agreement with the gentleman about all forms of social media.

  5. Sir I deleted my Facebook Instagram accounts after watching this video. I am going to read all your books. Thank you for making a difference.😊

  6. I'm with this guy. Does he have a twitter account ? If not, I like how he pawns off the comments that he will never read.

  7. Good stuff overall.. but I think he misinterpreted use of social media for career advancement. It’s useful as a way to stay present and present work, not literally as a tool implemented as part of your work abilities. Artists- for instance- get commissions directly via social media. They get featured by curation accounts and go on to develop a fan base which leads to clout/jobs/etc. this comes up for many careers.

  8. Social media are not "good or bad". For some they are just the toys. For others – tools. It all boils down to YOU. If you drink a glass of wine from time to time there's nothing wrong with that. If you get wasted every day – you have a problem. The problem is in YOU looking inside the bottle too often – not in the content of that bottle.

  9. I’ve quit Facebook – not looking back. Best decision ever. Instagram and YouTube is harder. I justify YouTube because I use it to learn though.

  10. I quit social media because it affects my mental health and body image . it also caused a lot of anxiety , I was obsessed with how many followers I have and how many likes I have and if I don't reach a certain rate then I start to think that I'm not worth the validation because I don't fit the certain image of what is always shown . so it's either no social media account or zero followers and likes .

  11. Just a note my comment is a general statement it’s not strictly regarding statements made in the video.

    I strongly disagree with quitting social media. That would cause more problems than good in my opinion. I also disagree with a lot of people’s negativity towards social media. Reality is social media is more good than bad. The ability to concentrate has been a problem long before social media. I also challenge the idea that humans aren’t made for the level connection that social media provides. Humans can more than handle what social media brings. The problem with a lot of people is not taking the time to learn how to regulate or adjust to new ways. We lead with fear of these new things than tackling the issue, and mastering it.

    If you choose to quit social media and feel things have gotten better, by all means good for you. But things got better for me with social media and self discipline than it did without. I would rather adjust to the new way and find balance in that way than blaming social media or demonising it when it’s not the problem. The problem lies with lack of self discipline in people. Learn to regulate yourself, learn to monitor where you spending your time online, learn to avoid certain groups and pages online. Also, don’t use your social media pages when you aren’t supposed to be using them. I don’t get why that’s a problem. I’ve been in meetings at work and have used my phone without going to any social media pages during the meeting. If that is hard for you, that sounds like a self discipline issue not social media. I would also suggest turning off you notifications for your social media apps and only check messages when you have the right time. Once I started doing these things, I realised that there is a lot positivity going on online and my self discipline improved. I also find that I was more distracted by the things outside of social media than social media. Television for example is more distracting than social media. While not scientific, I tested myself. I went without social media for a week, and not much of anything changed except I got a little bored. I went without television for the same amount of time and my mind cleared up, my emotions balanced out, and my concentration improved. I felt great. So, even in limited social media, I weeded out social media as the problem.

    I would also challenge that reading books is better, actually there as many cons with books as well. Due to there not being much censorship, a lot of the reading material being put out there for centuries are riddled with false and harmful information that has lead to issues with a lot of people’s life choices and mental health. They have stirred up anxiety, ego problems, etc… For this reason, it’s the person’s responsibility to regulate. Learn what to read and learn what to stay away from. The same applies to social media, I stay away from certain things online and I also avoid picking my phones at times.

    One thing I don’t have problems with at work is focusing on my work. As a musician, when you’re in the studio you need to be present and get your job done. I rarely touch my phone in the studio unless I’m checking the time. And most musicians I work with rarely use their phones too. Typically my hours range from 5-12 hours sessions. We are too busy working.

    Conclusion, quitting social media isn’t the solution nor a good one. Social is more good than bad. Human ego and fear hasn’t changed since social media. If anything these problems were exposed more greatly by social media. Which means we to fix what has been wrong for a long time. So, it is better to find balance with it than running from it. If for whatever reason certain people just can’t handle it, then they should quit, but most people benefit more from it than suffer any bad.

  12. I've put my Facebook on deletion mode. Yesterday, I had put my Snapchat on deletion and I had removed my Instagram app. The urges that you had described with the withdrawals, are 100% true. The only problem for me would be is that I always feel like, I am missing out on a lot of things and events.

  13. The most difficult part about quitting for me is being in a public setting such as restaurant or bar and waiting on someone or simply by yourself and wanting to go on social media to escape the feeling of being by myself in a public setting. People do this all the time in a party or being with a group of ppl and feeling awkward so we go to our phones

  14. I tried saving my friends from the addiction of social media. But, non of them is listening to a word I say.
    They believe that somebody has to have social media accounts to be a part of the society.

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