This evening I was having a quick browse on the internet. I was looking for Social Media videos, more specifically scientific lectures regarding the effects of social media on our brains. Purely by chance I stumbled across this TEDx talk by Dr Cal Newport. Cal is a university professor & by chance, he didn’t ever sign up to Facebook when the rush to create accounts was in full force. His reasons at the time are quite trivial, he was a little miffed that Mark Zuckerberg’s business had taken off so well while so many others had failed in the dot-com bust.
However, this gives Cal a unique perspective on Social Media. He has been able to observe his friends, peers & students adopting the technologies and how the platforms have fundamentally changed people’s behaviour.
The arguments are very compelling.
People argue that rejecting social media makes you some kind of Luddite as these technologies are fundamental to our daily lives in the 21st century. Cal argues that social media isn’t a fundamental technology, it’s an entertainment platform of little value & can be easily compared to the casino slot machine. The only difference is that we carry this slot machine in our pockets day & night & allow it to fragment & steal our attention.
Furthermore, social media isn’t required to be successful. In fact, he argues that the ability for deep concentration is ruined by the addictive entertainment nature of social media, making people less valuable in the workplace & less able to produce meaningful & valuable unique work. I totally agree with this point. I personally feel my concentration has been ruined by Social Media platforms & fragmentation of my attention. I’m already noticing huge changes in my brain function since quitting certain platforms and reducing my twitter use. I may just quit Twitter after watching this video.
Lastly, Cal’s final argument concerns those who say that they are light social media users, they use it to have fun and it causes no harm. Cal’s response to that is that it causes a range of harms, from fragmentation of attention to the inability to enter a state of deep concentration and achieve what psychologists refer to as flow.
Many of you will know that I’m super interested in social media and specifically how it is changing our relationships with each other & with the institutions & world around us. I have a lot more to write about this stuff & It will feature heavily in upcoming posts. Until then I’ll leave you with Cal’s video. Please do give it a watch, it might just plant a seed in your consciousness.