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7 reasons You Need to QUIT Using Social Media: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Social media has both positive and negative benefits, but a lot of data suggests the negatives may outweigh the benefits.

Cal Newport, a computer scientist and author of books such as deep work, digital minimalism and so good they can’t ignore you, provided a Tedx talk simply titled Quit Social Media.

His arguments are that social media is harmful to the brain and to the quality of life. Essentially the negatives far outweigh the positives.

Social media is fun and entertaining. In fact, I spent 5 hours on YouTube last week looking at nothing, went to bed late, missed my morning lecture and spent the rest of the day on YouTube. Did I have fun and was I entertained, YES! On the other hand, it is pretty obvious social media is a huge time-suck and is honestly very exhausting. Most people explain, I logged onto YouTube/Instagram/Twitter/Facebook to check out a post and 2 hours went by.

Several studies have shown the negativities of overconsumption of social media and this is supported by several people in Silicon Valley. After watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix I fully accepted the severity of social media and its impact. Essentially, social media is present for entertainment rather than for information. This is pretty obvious when we scroll and scroll and basically get mediocre bites of information.

Furthermore, evidence shows that these outlets are created to be addictive and the creators/engineers employ the strategies use in Las Vegas gambling establishments to get your attention. These strategies include providing loads of stimulation with intermittent rewards and evoking a craving for the next hit of dopamine.

The top reasons to delete social media include:

1 Focus and creativity

Excessive use of social media fragments our attention throughout the day. Cal Newport calls this shallow work, easily replicable and permanently damaging. It means once you actually need to focus, and dive deeply into work that leads to success, your brain is incapable of doing so. It craves 10-second videos, colourful pictures, highlights and mediocre likes. Social media provides easily digestible pieces of information, where you really don’t have to try and understand why or analyse the context of them. This is the equivalent of drinking sugar every 30 minutes and then wondering why you are gaining weight. Everything becomes boring away from social media. Additionally, social media does not tell you if something is true or fiction. Just think of the number of people that believed 5G causes coronavirus or those that actually believe the earth is flat. There is no regulation, no labels just an algorithm pushing the popular and unfiltered as the best.

2 Less stress: Correlation with anxiety, depression and stress

A study published by the journal of social and clinical psychology showed a correlation between the rise in anxiety and depression to the rise in social media. Young people especially are consumed by technology. Just watch a day in the life video on YouTube. People wake up and check Instagram and go to bed watching Instagram. Younger people have been shown to feel lonely, isolated, inadequate and depressed when comparing their real lives to the carefully curated lives on Instagram. We honestly do not know the full extent of social media. To be fair we might just be seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Social media can bring out the competitive side of anyone. There is not only a comparison of the number of likes and friends but also lifestyle. Sites like Instagram are more like a show-off contest. This is what I have, what do you have? Kylie Jenner has also stated that if she posts a picture and it doesn't get a certain amount of likes she deletes it, things have to be perfect and have to be seen as perfect. This causes stress and competition that can have adverse effects on health and well-being.

It is important to remember that most people on social media are careful about what they post on social media. That super cute selfie, with the perfect light, smile, clothing and background is likely one of 100 and edited to perfection. Many people especially content creators actually spend a lot of money and time to make sure their pictures are liked to the maximum. As a result, a lot of us end up with mental health problems or give up on dreams/goals because we are not even good enough in the first place.

3 More sleep

The light from the screen, particularly the hue, can affect our sleep. Most people sleep with their phones and with every notification, phone call or painful thought they reach for their phone. A Self-study showed that artificial light can interfere with the bidi’s natural production of a hormone called melatonin - which is normally responsible for helping you sleep. Therefore is advisable to sleep with your phone in a different room.

Sleep is extremely important. Matthew Walker (2017), highlighted this in his book, “Why we sleep”. The book showed that we need sleep for brain growth, protection of the immune system, fighting malignant, and memory. Lack of sleep has been linked to severe conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease anxiety, depression, bipolar suicide and chronic pain. Additionally, other disorders such as cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and infertility, weight gain and obesity are also caused by being awake longer than we need to be. In actuality, we all need 7-8 hours of sleep daily to function optimally.

So what happens in the world where we are all sleep deprived and need to know everything? The truth is we don’t know and we have to wait a few more years to understand the impacts. By quitting social media, sleep comes faster and easier for most.

4. More Connection

It is funny because the more connected we have become the more lonely we actually feel. Social media provides the illusion of real relationships but without any of the benefits. It gives the feeling that you’re a part of something, someone likes what you post, and that laughing emoji means you’re funny or you are popular because you get over 1000 likes. Whereas in actuality, you're sitting on your bed after a busy day at work, eating uber-eats, watching another episode of the crown and scrolling Instagram (that actually doesn’t sound so bad). There is no one to hug, no one to cry week, and no one to genuinely have a conversation where it is not just about words and voice but actually analysing body language.

5. Regaining time

There are a lot of different habits out there and each of these has varying outcomes. Positive habits tend to give back: you start to feel more relaxed, more focused, have better creativity and actually have more energy. Negative habits take: mainly time, a lack of focus, take away motivation and in essence produce nothing of tangible value.

Studies show that the average person spends approximately 4 hours on social media. Unless you own an online business this is yielding nothing. Arguably, even if you own a business, there is really no need to have the app on your phone. Simply log on when needed and log off when not needed. There is no need to have a constant stream of either extremely negative media or extremely positive media.

6. Curbing the Addiction

Social media has been shown to be as addictive as crack or cocaine. People that have actually quit social media experience a withdrawal response, where they feel isolated, compulsively check their phones and experience anxiety. This has been shown to be because a few of missing out. This is the idea that something incredible is going to happen and you will never know about it or you will find out about it later making you feel sad.

As a result, people addicted to social media tend to destroy their relationships and professional relationships as well.

7. More sex and better relationships

Social media is a great way of interacting with people around you. However, using it as a substitute can negatively impact these relationships. Obviously, we're in a pandemic so it is unrealistic to think we won’t use social media to connect, but it does not have to be over social media.

Best of all, by putting the phone down we are likely to actually make time for our partners meaning more cuddling and other fun things.

How I limited social media

So I made the plunge to delete my social media in the hopes of being more productive and for better mental health. Annoyingly, I realised I couldn’t completely delete everything as some social media was actually essential for my success (currently at university and teaching session are posted on social media). Below I summarise how I utilised each piece of media.

- Instagram (Completely deleted): This is probably the social media platform that I regret getting the most. I was the most addicted t this and did not need it so I deleted it.

- Whatsapp (Only for family): Kept it as a means to communicate with family in Africa.

- Facebook (Deleted and created a specific account): I realised I needed this for University. So I deleted my old account (which had no specific use) and created an account with University friends and pages. Limited total friends to 50. I intend to delete this when I complete my degree.

- YouTube (Reduced the amount): I use several YouTube channels for learning, so I deleted the actual app and only use links on websites to watch. Essentially, I never use the YouTube website or app itself.

- TikTok (Never got this)/Snapchat/Twitter (deleted) - had not used these in years


According to Cal Newport, a digital declutter has three steps

  • Spend 30 days on a break from optional technologies in your life; to find the optional tech in your life, “consider the technology optional unless its temporary removal would harm or significantly disrupt the daily operation of your professional or personal life.”

  • Rediscover hobbies, activities, and behaviours you enjoy and find meaningful.

  • After 30 days, reintroduce optional technologies intentionally (this step reminded me of the reintroduction phase of Whole30 or any elimination diet).

To further this declutter other ideas include:

1. Spent time alone

Apparently, we are a solitude-deprived society and as a result of this, we have become more anxious. At the thought or slight feeling of discomfort, we whip out our phones and zone out everything. As a result, we have become more and more anxious over time. We need solitude and sleep to deal with deep seeded issues.

- Ideas on how to spend time alone: take walks, journal and spend time away from the phone.

2. Replace social media with real connections

Actually, meet people and if not possible call people rather than send a quick message or DM. Form healthy better relationships with those close to you.

3. Find worthwhile pursuits

If you simply deleted social media and waited and sat and waited you would get bored. Without plans on what to do without social media, we are bound to go back and simply switch to other unhealthy habits.

I- deas on some worthwhile pursuits: learn a new language, learn an instrument, fix or build something each week, schedule low-quality leisure time, join clubs or groups, play a board game

The most successful social leisure activities share two traits. First, they require you to spend time with other people in person…the second trait is that the activity provides some sort of structure for the social interaction, including rules to have to follow, insider terminology or rituals, and often a shared goal.

To conclude:




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