The Current

Quit social media? Author says your career may depend on it

Have you ever wanted to ditch social media? Author Cal Newport has shunned it from his life in favour of what he calls "deep work." His plea for us to delete our online presence has sparked a lively debate — on and offline.
(Christian Hornick/Flickr cc)

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Cal Newport is a self-described unicorn: he's a millenial, computer scientist and author who's never had a social media account.

He's urging others to ditch theirs.

"Social media has never convinced me that it has some big positive benefit," Newport tells The Current's guest host Nam Kiwanuka.

He argues that there's been an over-emphasis on the benefits these services provide and not enough discussion about the effects. 

"If people did a real honest cost-benefit analysis I think there would be a lot more people out there that would come to the same conclusion I did."
Could you quit social media for good? (magicatwork/flickr cc)

Newport says when you log off of social media you avoid the distraction that these tools were built for. 

"The problem is if you become addicted to this constant source of intermittently reinforced content it becomes a Pavlovian response that at the slightest hint of boredom you need your phone."

Social media and work

Tech strategist and author Alexandra Samuel thinks Newport is valid in addressing a discomfort many people may have with social media but he's come to the wrong conclusion.

Rather than quitting … I think it's far more useful to ask yourself how this incredibly powerful medium can actually support you in your own personal goals.- Alexandra Samuel

Samuel says she's a counterpoint example to Newport's argument because her entire career was built out of social media.

"I started blogging just about when I finished my Ph.D. and my work found me," Samuel says and adds that by sharing her ideas on social media, professional opportunities have presented themselves for the past 15 years.

Artist and author  Vivek Shraya agrees. She says she wouldn't have a career without social media and believes the medium has been powerful in bringing political and social change.

"In terms of thinking how activism happens on social media it feels so important to be open to that possibility because you know mainstream media … I mean certainly for me all I see is whiteness."

Vivek says being able to curate a feed in a way that represents "beautiful black, Indigenous and brown people of color engaging" creates a feeling of community and visibility.

"Which feels really important."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar and Samira Mohyeddin.