full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Cal Newport: Why you should quit social media

Unscramble the Blue Letters

You probably don't raziele that right now, you're actually looking at something quite rare. Because I am a millennial computer scientist book author snanidtg on a TEDx stage, and yet, I've never had a social media account. How this happened was actually somewhat radonm. 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 bnsseuis, 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 iartmmue 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 oittcviejby, some pripeesvcte on it, I realized this seems a little bit danrgeuos. So I never signed up. I've never had a scaiol 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 tnrus out I still have friends, I still know what's going on in the world; as a computer scientist I still cooatlbalre with people all around the world, I'm still regularly esxpoed serendipitously to interesting idaes, and I rlarey 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 snsuttailabiiy in my life, and I think I've been more sucescufsl 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 envet is "Future Tense," I gseus, 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 dufese the hype and see if I can actually push in some more reality. This is the first most comomn 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 toeghielncos 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 eiereatmtnnnt product. The way that technologist Jaron Lanier puts it is that these companies offer you shiny treats in exchange for minutes of your atetotinn and bites of your pnoreasl data, which can then be packaged up and sold. So to say that you don't use social meida should not be a lrage social stance, it's just rejietncg one form of entertainment for others. There should be no more controversial than saying, "I don't like nerswapeps, I like to get my news from mnigaaezs," or "I prefer to watch cable series, as opposed to network television series." It's not a major patciilol or social stance to say you don't use this product. My use of the slot machine igame 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 mjoar social media companies hire individuals cleald attention engineers, who borrow principles from Las Vegas casino glnmibag, among other places, to try to make these products as aiivtcdde as possible. That is the desired use case of these products: is that you use it in an addictive fsioahn 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 ssegugt that people quit social media. The objection goes as follows, "Cal, I can't quit social media because it is vital to my sccseus in the 21st century economy. If I do not have a well-cultivated social media bnard, 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 aitlbiy 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 aunmot 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 bhivoraes. It's instead going to reward the deep, concentrated work required to build real skills and to apply those skills to pcudore 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 tonahusd 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 aplpy 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 foerllwos you have. This is the third comment objection I hear when I suggest to people that they quit social media; in some snsee, I think it might be one of the most important. This obctiejon 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 halresms, I have some fun on it - weird: Twitter's funny - I don't even use it that much, I'm a first aodeptr, it's kind of irnniettseg 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 ritlaey 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 hrmas head-on when trying to make decisions about whether or not we embrace this tlehooncgy 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 fucos intensely, to produce things that are rare and vaabulle, to hone skills the market place value on, that this is what will matter in our economy. But right before that, I aeugrd that social media tools are designed to be addictive. The autcal 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 dsngieed to use. We have a growing amount of research which tells us that if you spned large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention - large portions of your day, breaking up your attention, to take a quick gcnlae, 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 cpitaacy to do exactly the type of deep effort that we're finding to be more and more necessary in an increasingly cmeptvoiite 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 satraetud in this technology. If you lose your ability to sustain cociaonttnern, you're going to become less and less rnevleat 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 lvaee 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 fuurte is that there's a fundamental mismatch between the way our branis are wired and this behavior of eosnixpg yourself to stimuli with intermittent rewards throughout all of your wnikag hours. It's one thing to spend a couple of hours at a slot mhiacne 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 wried from it. It short-circuits the biran, and we're starting to find it has actual ciigtnvoe consequences, one of them being this sort of pervasive background hum of anxiety. The canary in the coal mine for this iusse is actually college campuses. If you talk to menatl 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 cepumsas. That's the canary in the coal mine. This type of bhevoair is a mismatch for our brain wrinig 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 patnetoil, completely non-trivial harms. People often ask, "OK, but what is life like without social media?" That can actually be a little bit sacry to think about. According to pelpoe 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 bkoos, 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 rpceset, - 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 intientsy can be tdraed 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 feamrr, 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 ciahr and read hardcover books at nghit 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 ctnnoast hum of suimlti, 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 nioton 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 mrekat 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 aurccate ctruiiqes of me and my poitns, and of course, I welcome all negative feedback. I just ask that you diecrt your comments towards Twitter. Thank you. (Applause)

Open Cloze

You probably don't _______ that right now, you're actually looking at something quite rare. Because I am a millennial computer scientist book author ________ on a TEDx stage, and yet, I've never had a social media account. How this happened was actually somewhat ______. 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 ________, 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 ________ 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 ___________, some ___________ on it, I realized this seems a little bit _________. So I never signed up. I've never had a ______ 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 _____ out I still have friends, I still know what's going on in the world; as a computer scientist I still ___________ with people all around the world, I'm still regularly _______ serendipitously to interesting _____, and I ______ 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 ______________ in my life, and I think I've been more __________ 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 _____ is "Future Tense," I _____, 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 ______ the hype and see if I can actually push in some more reality. This is the first most ______ 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 ____________ 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 _____________ product. The way that technologist Jaron Lanier puts it is that these companies offer you shiny treats in exchange for minutes of your _________ and bites of your ________ data, which can then be packaged up and sold. So to say that you don't use social _____ should not be a _____ social stance, it's just _________ one form of entertainment for others. There should be no more controversial than saying, "I don't like __________, I like to get my news from _________," or "I prefer to watch cable series, as opposed to network television series." It's not a major _________ or social stance to say you don't use this product. My use of the slot machine _____ 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 _____ social media companies hire individuals ______ attention engineers, who borrow principles from Las Vegas casino ________, among other places, to try to make these products as _________ as possible. That is the desired use case of these products: is that you use it in an addictive _______ 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 _______ that people quit social media. The objection goes as follows, "Cal, I can't quit social media because it is vital to my _______ in the 21st century economy. If I do not have a well-cultivated social media _____, 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 _______ 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 ______ 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 _________. It's instead going to reward the deep, concentrated work required to build real skills and to apply those skills to _______ 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 ________ 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 _____ 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 _________ you have. This is the third comment objection I hear when I suggest to people that they quit social media; in some _____, I think it might be one of the most important. This _________ 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 ________, I have some fun on it - weird: Twitter's funny - I don't even use it that much, I'm a first _______, it's kind of ___________ 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 _______ 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 _____ head-on when trying to make decisions about whether or not we embrace this __________ 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 _____ intensely, to produce things that are rare and ________, to hone skills the market place value on, that this is what will matter in our economy. But right before that, I ______ that social media tools are designed to be addictive. The ______ 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 ________ to use. We have a growing amount of research which tells us that if you _____ large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention - large portions of your day, breaking up your attention, to take a quick ______, 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 ________ to do exactly the type of deep effort that we're finding to be more and more necessary in an increasingly ___________ 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 _________ in this technology. If you lose your ability to sustain _____________, you're going to become less and less ________ 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 _____ 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 ______ is that there's a fundamental mismatch between the way our ______ are wired and this behavior of ________ yourself to stimuli with intermittent rewards throughout all of your ______ hours. It's one thing to spend a couple of hours at a slot _______ 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 _____ from it. It short-circuits the _____, and we're starting to find it has actual _________ consequences, one of them being this sort of pervasive background hum of anxiety. The canary in the coal mine for this _____ is actually college campuses. If you talk to ______ 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 ________. That's the canary in the coal mine. This type of ________ is a mismatch for our brain ______ 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 _________, completely non-trivial harms. People often ask, "OK, but what is life like without social media?" That can actually be a little bit _____ to think about. According to ______ 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 _____, 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 _______, - 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 _________ can be ______ 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 ______, 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 _____ and read hardcover books at _____ 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 ________ hum of _______, 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 ______ 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 ______ 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 ________ _________ of me and my ______, and of course, I welcome all negative feedback. I just ask that you ______ your comments towards Twitter. Thank you. (Applause)

Solution

  1. critiques
  2. intensity
  3. future
  4. dangerous
  5. campuses
  6. attention
  7. saturated
  8. scary
  9. sustainability
  10. brains
  11. leave
  12. realize
  13. notion
  14. behavior
  15. fashion
  16. traded
  17. books
  18. success
  19. sense
  20. exposing
  21. political
  22. points
  23. potential
  24. brain
  25. issue
  26. gambling
  27. cognitive
  28. defuse
  29. personal
  30. farmer
  31. technologies
  32. interesting
  33. social
  34. media
  35. common
  36. called
  37. harms
  38. rarely
  39. respect
  40. turns
  41. newspapers
  42. apply
  43. major
  44. thousand
  45. produce
  46. perspective
  47. image
  48. business
  49. glance
  50. relevant
  51. objection
  52. wired
  53. entertainment
  54. ideas
  55. technology
  56. event
  57. exposed
  58. behaviors
  59. collaborate
  60. designed
  61. followers
  62. wiring
  63. machine
  64. adopter
  65. suggest
  66. brand
  67. concentration
  68. waking
  69. accurate
  70. rejecting
  71. focus
  72. ability
  73. harmless
  74. random
  75. night
  76. guess
  77. mental
  78. market
  79. standing
  80. constant
  81. addictive
  82. chair
  83. argued
  84. successful
  85. magazines
  86. spend
  87. reality
  88. amount
  89. actual
  90. people
  91. capacity
  92. direct
  93. large
  94. valuable
  95. competitive
  96. stimuli
  97. objectivity
  98. immature

Original Text

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)

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
social media 29
quit social 5
fundamental technology 3
slot machine 3
computer scientist 2
media account 2
common objection 2
bit closer 2
professional success 2
large portions 2
permanently reduce 2
background hum 2

ngrams of length 3

collocation frequency
quit social media 3
social media account 2

Important Words

  1. ability
  2. accidental
  3. account
  4. accurate
  5. act
  6. activities
  7. activity
  8. actual
  9. addictive
  10. address
  11. adopter
  12. agree
  13. algorithm
  14. ambiguous
  15. amount
  16. anxiety
  17. anxious
  18. applause
  19. apply
  20. argued
  21. argument
  22. arrived
  23. attention
  24. author
  25. background
  26. bad
  27. baseball
  28. bed
  29. behavior
  30. behaviors
  31. benefit
  32. big
  33. bit
  34. bites
  35. bloodism
  36. book
  37. books
  38. borrow
  39. brain
  40. brains
  41. brand
  42. breaking
  43. bring
  44. brings
  45. build
  46. business
  47. bust
  48. cable
  49. calculus
  50. called
  51. campus
  52. campuses
  53. canary
  54. capacity
  55. carefully
  56. case
  57. casino
  58. century
  59. chair
  60. change
  61. check
  62. claim
  63. clarity
  64. clear
  65. closer
  66. coal
  67. cognitive
  68. collaborate
  69. college
  70. comfortable
  71. comment
  72. comments
  73. common
  74. companies
  75. competitive
  76. completely
  77. computer
  78. concentrated
  79. concentration
  80. concerns
  81. confront
  82. consequences
  83. constant
  84. controversial
  85. convince
  86. core
  87. cost
  88. couple
  89. craftsman
  90. critiques
  91. curated
  92. dangerous
  93. data
  94. day
  95. decide
  96. decisions
  97. deep
  98. definition
  99. defuse
  100. deliver
  101. depression
  102. describe
  103. designed
  104. desired
  105. detox
  106. developer
  107. difficult
  108. direct
  109. disagree
  110. disappear
  111. discard
  112. dismisses
  113. disorders
  114. documented
  115. dorm
  116. dotcom
  117. draws
  118. easy
  119. economy
  120. effectively
  121. effort
  122. elegant
  123. embrace
  124. emphasized
  125. engineers
  126. entertainment
  127. epitome
  128. event
  129. evidence
  130. exchange
  131. excited
  132. experts
  133. explosion
  134. exposed
  135. exposing
  136. exposure
  137. extracted
  138. extreme
  139. facebook
  140. farmer
  141. fashion
  142. feedback
  143. feel
  144. finally
  145. find
  146. finding
  147. fit
  148. fixate
  149. focus
  150. followers
  151. form
  152. foundation
  153. fragment
  154. fragmented
  155. frankly
  156. friends
  157. full
  158. fun
  159. fundamental
  160. funny
  161. future
  162. gambling
  163. generation
  164. give
  165. glance
  166. goal
  167. growing
  168. guess
  169. handle
  170. happened
  171. happier
  172. hard
  173. hardcover
  174. harm
  175. harmless
  176. harms
  177. harvard
  178. health
  179. hear
  180. hearing
  181. hermit
  182. hipster
  183. hire
  184. hone
  185. hooked
  186. hoping
  187. horse
  188. hours
  189. hum
  190. hype
  191. ideas
  192. identify
  193. image
  194. immature
  195. impact
  196. important
  197. inadequate
  198. increase
  199. increasingly
  200. individuals
  201. insights
  202. instagram
  203. institution
  204. intense
  205. intensely
  206. intensity
  207. interesting
  208. intermittent
  209. isolated
  210. issue
  211. jaron
  212. jealousy
  213. job
  214. joke
  215. kid
  216. kids
  217. kind
  218. lacking
  219. lanier
  220. large
  221. las
  222. leather
  223. leave
  224. legal
  225. leisure
  226. leverages
  227. life
  228. limb
  229. listen
  230. literature
  231. lives
  232. lonely
  233. long
  234. lose
  235. lot
  236. machine
  237. magazines
  238. main
  239. major
  240. making
  241. mark
  242. market
  243. matter
  244. maximizes
  245. meaningful
  246. means
  247. media
  248. mental
  249. message
  250. messages
  251. millennial
  252. minutes
  253. miserable
  254. mismatch
  255. misses
  256. missing
  257. multiple
  258. named
  259. negative
  260. network
  261. news
  262. newspaper
  263. newspapers
  264. night
  265. nonsense
  266. noted
  267. notion
  268. objection
  269. objections
  270. objectivity
  271. offer
  272. opportunities
  273. opposed
  274. options
  275. outcomes
  276. outweigh
  277. packaged
  278. part
  279. peaceful
  280. people
  281. permanently
  282. personal
  283. perspective
  284. pervasive
  285. phone
  286. place
  287. places
  288. pm
  289. point
  290. points
  291. political
  292. portions
  293. portrayals
  294. positive
  295. positives
  296. potential
  297. prefer
  298. preserve
  299. principles
  300. process
  301. produce
  302. product
  303. productive
  304. products
  305. professional
  306. professionally
  307. professor
  308. profit
  309. prose
  310. psychological
  311. published
  312. pull
  313. push
  314. put
  315. puts
  316. quick
  317. quickly
  318. quit
  319. radar
  320. random
  321. rare
  322. rarely
  323. rates
  324. reaction
  325. read
  326. reader
  327. real
  328. reality
  329. realize
  330. realized
  331. reduce
  332. regularly
  333. reject
  334. rejecting
  335. relevant
  336. replicate
  337. report
  338. require
  339. required
  340. research
  341. respect
  342. restorative
  343. reward
  344. rewards
  345. riding
  346. rise
  347. room
  348. rotary
  349. saturated
  350. scary
  351. scathing
  352. scientist
  353. sea
  354. sense
  355. serendipitously
  356. series
  357. settle
  358. shiny
  359. shut
  360. signed
  361. significant
  362. significantly
  363. sit
  364. skills
  365. slot
  366. small
  367. smartphone
  368. social
  369. sold
  370. sophomore
  371. sort
  372. sounds
  373. source
  374. spend
  375. stage
  376. stance
  377. standing
  378. starting
  379. state
  380. statistics
  381. stay
  382. stimuli
  383. strands
  384. strategy
  385. students
  386. success
  387. successful
  388. suddenly
  389. suggest
  390. summarize
  391. sun
  392. surprising
  393. sustain
  394. sustainability
  395. talk
  396. technologies
  397. technologist
  398. technology
  399. tedx
  400. television
  401. tells
  402. tense
  403. theme
  404. thought
  405. thousand
  406. threads
  407. thrive
  408. ticket
  409. time
  410. tools
  411. traded
  412. transform
  413. treat
  414. treats
  415. true
  416. turns
  417. twitter
  418. type
  419. ubiquitous
  420. understood
  421. unsavory
  422. valuable
  423. values
  424. vegas
  425. vision
  426. vital
  427. wake
  428. waking
  429. watch
  430. web
  431. weekday
  432. weeks
  433. wired
  434. wiring
  435. words
  436. work
  437. world
  438. worried
  439. worry
  440. worth
  441. write
  442. written
  443. year
  444. younger