community · Life and Stuff · ROW80 Check Ins

Should We Quit Social Media?

*ROW80 update at the bottom of the post

I recently came across the TED Talk by Dr. Cal Newport saying , not only is social media not harmless, it is dangerous and addictive.


It’s something I’ve heard before, but Dr. Newport makes a few persuasive points. Perhaps the most persuasive point is that social media sites are designed to be addictive the way that casinos are, that having social media apps on our phones is like carrying little slot machines with us everywhere. He further argues that social media is not an essential technology (see the video for a full explanation), and we don’t need it to be successful or well known. He concludes that, for us to make the choice to use social media, we have to show a compelling reason that the benefit outweighs the harm.

Of course, I did find the video of his TED Talk on YouTube. One would probably argue that YouTube is a social media platform, as is this blog itself. It’s also likely that this video has gone around on Facebook and Twitter more than once. While Dr. Newport proudly says he’s never had a social media account and is successful regardless, his ideas are spreading via the platforms he rejects.

Is he wrong about social media? I would say, at least in part, no. Certainly, I’ve felt the pull of it, lost myself surfing FB, Twitter and Pinterest. I’ve found myself reaching for my phone thoughtlessly, wondering if there’s anything interesting and new, anything at all. At its worst, social media can inspire narcissistic, obsessive behaviour and be a showcase for our ugliest human impulses and mob mentality.

On the other hand, I’ve come across ideas and people I likely never would have otherwise. I’ve been able to share my ideas and connect with others. Social media allows us to see what’s going on in places we never think about, to become aware of people and causes that need our help. At its best, social media allows us to form a word wide community.

There are many things in life we choose to do, in spite of serious danger. Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, but irresponsible use and addiction can destroy lives. Even driving or riding in a car is dangerous, though seatbelts, traffic laws and alert driving mitigate many of those dangers. Everyday, we’re confronted with choices that can lead to both harm and good. What do we choose?


Time for another midweek ROW80* check in.

I’m on track with this week’s goals.

I’m almost finished with the LLF scene and NA should be a pretty simple rewrite.

I took the day off from working out yesterday. That leaves me one more day off…but maybe I won’t use it.

On the cello, I’ve kept up daily practice without a hitch and haven’t used my optional off day. My sound seems to be improving, and it’s getting easier to play O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Tonight’s another family movie night (maybe the second Matrix movie?). I didn’t make popcorn last time. I should definitely do that tonight. Kettle corn maybe.


*ROW80, also known as a Round of Words in 80 days is an opportunity for us to set goals (for writing and/or other areas) and share them with a community ready to keep you accountable and cheer you on. If you’re interested in ROW80, you can find more info here and the latest check in post here.


What do you think? Is social media a serious danger? Does the potential benefit outweight the harm? How much of it depends on the user? How do we approach our own use of social media in light of Dr. Newport’s arguments?

For my fellow ROWers or other goal oriented folks: How’s it going for you?


6 thoughts on “Should We Quit Social Media?

  1. Whenever people start talking about “social media”, I challenge them to give an operational definition of what that term is supposed to mean. Note that “operational definition” is a very fundamental concept with respect to scientific analysis, research methods, data collection, data science and thereby also SHOULD BE of central importance to anyone who talks about “big data”… but it usually *isn’t*. Mr. Newport also doesn’t provide an operational definition of what the term “social media” is supposed to refer to.

    As a result, I remain steadfast in my be belief that it means NOTHING — it is plain and simple FAKE NEWS. I feel sorry for the folks who paid money to attend that talk (if they did) — because they are listening to about 14 minutes of hot air (IMHO).

  2. I can definitely see how social media can be addicting and harmful. Moderation is the key. Of course, with easy access it can be hard for people to stay away from social media. I can never go on social media from work, so all the hours I am there every week are social media free at least. 🙂

    1. Agreed. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of mindlessly checking social media feeds. We have to consciously moderate. It helps when we have lots of time free of social media, whether we choose it or it’s necessary because of work, etc. 🙂

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