The Thrive Tour

Be The Architect of Your Health and Happiness

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How Social Media Could Be Making You Ill with Cal Newport

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  February 8, 2019

How did this happen? We’re all living ultra-connected lives. In our pockets we have tiny technological miracles through which we can communicate, instantly, with anyone on the planet. Yet we are lonelier than ever before. Research has shown that levels of anxiety and depression have exploded, especially in the younger generation, who push time spent connected to the extreme.

Professor of computer science and author on this subject, Cal Newport, explains why. We have evolved to be part of a mutually supportive human tribe, where being isolated, meant danger. As far as our brains are concerned, digital interactions do not play the same role as real conversations. Instead, they pull our time and attention away from real-world interactions and our brains react as if something is wrong. In addition, constant connection means that downtime is being eroded from our lives and we are losing the ability to just be.

We discuss the concept of digital minimalism and how we all need to spend time doing what Cal calls, ‘high quality leisure activities’. Finally, Cal gives some brilliant tips on decluttering your digital world. This is a thought-provoking conversation – I hope you enjoy it! I cover these issues in my new book, ‘The Stress Solution’ and suggest simple ways in which we can all bring back real-life connection into our lives.

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Episode Highlights:

  • Hear about Cal’s books Deep Work and Digital Minimalism
  • Why does Cal think that ‘less is more’ with social media?
  • How is social media increasing the rate of loneliness?
  • Why does Cal think we can benefit from solitude and how social media erode this possibility?
  • How has our work productivity diminished now that we are ultra-connected through technology?
  • How is our improved digital connection having a negative effect on our personal lives?
  • Hear how some people are now growing up dependant on their digital existence being available 24 hours a day.
  • How big a problem does Cal see our addiction to social media?
  • Hear about the digital decluttering experiment Cal did with a group of volunteers and how they learnt ways to cut out various digital aspects from their day to day lives.
  • How can having regular ‘analog’ leisure activities help replace time spent digitally?
  • Does Cal have a smart phone and what did Steve Jobs originally envisage for the iphone?
  • Why are people reverting to listening to music again via CD or vinyl?
  • Hear about Tristan Harris and the way social media companies have designed apps to be addictive, like slot machines.
  • What is the impact on your relationships when you reduce your social media use?
  • Hear how Cal has studied the Amish community and its view on digital technology and social media.
  • What are Cal’s top tips?

Find out more about Cal:

Website     Cal’s blog

Ted talk – Why you should quit social media

Cal’s books:

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology

Further learning:

Dr Chatterjee’s resources:


DISCLAIMER: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP