Think about how often you check one of your many social media accounts. Chances are you spend a pretty good portion of your time, productivity, and brain power participating in these apps each day.
Though it may seem harmless, or even beneficial, the ubiquitous use of social media is working against our health. Our brains evolved to process social cues from real people; the more we’re on social media the less we’re having real-world interactions that challenge and support our cognition.
My guest on this week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy has never had a social media account—and he’s managed to thrive! Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and writes about the impact of technological innovations on our culture. Newport is the author of six books, including Digital Minimalism and Deep Work.
As we dive into the topic of social media, Cal shares his expertise on how it’s impacting public health and culture in ways much greater than you might expect.
Many people use social media as a way to connect to one another, but increased use is actually associated with increases in perceived loneliness and social isolation. Research also shows that mental health issues like anxiety and depression have skyrocketed within the generation that has had the greatest exposure to smartphones.
Cal talks about how the constant checking of our various accounts is not only making people feel worse, it’s also affecting our long-term concentration, job performance, and ability to be present. It’s the cognitive equivalent of junk food, which is why Cal recommends a minimalist approach to digital devices: a philosophical approach to technology that utilizes what we need to support our true passions and values and ignoring all the rest. No one needs 100 different apps on their phone to do that.
We also discuss how social media has been designed to be addictive and how the use of social approval indicators (think “Like” button) are created to hijack our psychological insecurities and keep us obsessively clicking away and checking in on our latest notifications. Cal provides his recommendations for overcoming these habits and embracing a digital minimalist approach in your own life.
We dig into all this and more on this week’s episode; I hope you’ll tune in and get inspired to overhaul your own relationship with social media.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD