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The dangers of digital: Cal Newport

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From Life Lessons: From Sport and Beyond with Simon Mundie

How smartphones and social media may be making us more anxious and distracted – and what to do about it. Cal Newport is the author of two seminal books: ‘Deep Work’ and ‘Digital Minimalism’. He argues that our ability to perform undistracted work on something cognitively demanding is a vital skill to train. However, the ability to perform ‘deep work’ is increasingly rare – not least because of the impact of smartphones and social media.

Cal says that IGen – people born between 1995 and 2012 – have been particularly impacted, because they came of age at a time when smartphone and social media use was ubiquitous. The rates of mental health issues in that generation are reported to have been rapidly and markedly impacted. Part of the problem – Cal argues – is that for the first time in human history, people don’t ever have to be alone with their thoughts and feelings. With a smartphone, you always have a distraction tool within reach, and that’s a problem. Without having to experience solitude in the same way as every preceding generation, people are struggling to experience uncomfortable thoughts and feelings – and grow as human beings. Bringing this to sport – could this be the reason why the so called ‘Next Generation’ in men’s tennis have failed to break through in the Grand Slams? It’s a hypothesis Cal agrees with. In this episode Cal shows a way to regain control of our wellbeing and our focus, not least by embracing the sort of analogue activities that lead to a life well lived.


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