Study Hacks Blog

Michael Lewis Doesn’t “Do” Social Media

January 26th, 2021 · 17 comments

Last May, Tim Ferriss interviewed the writer Michael Lewis. Early in the episode, Lewis said that people often describe him as “one of the happiest people they know.” Toward the end, we encounter one of the reasons why this is true.

As the podcast wraps up, Ferriss asks the standard question: “are there any other websites, or any other resources, social media handles, anything you would like to mention if people want to learn more about what you are up to?”

Lewis’s response is refreshing:

“I wish I could say ‘yes,’ but I don’t do social media. So the answer is ‘no’…I have no way to be found. Except through my work.”

The formula here is so simple that it’s easy to overlook: Do less, do what you do better, don’t get distracted along the way. But its value shouldn’t be ignored.

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Speaking of living deeply, due to popular demand, Scott Young and I are opening up a new session of our online course Life of Focus. If you want to find out more about the new session, sign up for the waiting list. Next week, Scott will be publishing to this list a series of articles on what we learned from the first session of the course, which we ran this fall, and was a great success (not to mention a lot of fun) .

17 thoughts on “Michael Lewis Doesn’t “Do” Social Media

  1. Josie says:

    Cal how can I get a signed copy of your new book?

  2. Jared Wyllys says:

    I like seeing examples of people who are successful in their field without a social media presence, but I’d love to know more about people who are working their way up in their field without it. Someone like Michael Lewis was already established before social media came along.

    I’m a part-time baseball writer, and having at least a Twitter account feels like a necessary evil (I’ve shut down all other social media accounts). There are those like Tom Verducci who get by without being on social media, but again, he was well established in the field before anyone cared how many followers you had.

    Again, I like seeing examples like Lewis’, but I would also love to learn from the experiences of those who are rising in their field and doing it without social media.

    1. I was thinking this exact same thing.

    2. Chris Offner says:

      I’d like to see examples both of people who are successfully working their way up in their field without social media *and* who are in ‘younger fields’ fields in general, i.e. competing with younger peers and vying for a younger audience or client/customer base.

      The attention economy is getting increasingly fierce, and communication/marketing seems to increasingly outweigh ‘deep work’ in many areas as the main ingredient of success.

      I resonate so much with Cal’s writing because it describes a set of values and a world view that I find profoundly attractive, but time and again I find myself wondering whether his theses are apt descriptions of the world or whether they’re merely (admirable) attempts at conjuring such a world.

    3. Caio Messias says:

      I think this was exemplified very well in the Digital Minimalism book. You don’t need to completely remove twitter from your life if you think it’s useful to you in some way, but you must use it consciously. In your case, twitter is more of a tool to share your work rather than a social network, and you must use it accordingly.

      To avoid getting addicted to it, you must limit your usage of it to the bare minimum. You can use some blocks/guard rails to, such as only following relevant baseball accounts, not having twitter installed in your phone, using an extension such as Leech Block to limit your time on twitter on your computer and so on.

  3. Jesse Miller says:

    I listened to that podcast as well. Solid stuff. I liked what you had to say about RSS feeds and the future of internet on your Monday podcast. I looked into Instapaper.

  4. Debbi Mack says:

    I love the concept of making a living from writing without social media. However, it’s a tough sell (to say the least) among fiction authors, who are convinced they must use it and that it’s the only way to reach readers.

    To a certain extent, I think this is due to either the authors’ own preconceptions or the advice of well-meaning publishing professionals.

    As an indie author, I’ve come to see the value of email marketing. I believe that earning one’s way into a person’s email box through providing valuable content has exceeded the value of social media, which has become crowded and crammed full of paid messages, anyway.

    But that’s just my $.02. 🙂

    1. Lauren Layne says:

      Hi Debbi—Your comment made my ears perk up. I too am a fiction writer, and find it frustrating that social media seems to be “a presumed thing that you must do.” We fiction writers are told that we finish a book, and now it’s time to secure all the “handles” on social media to start building our platform. Nobody questions it. And yes, publishing “experts” act as though it’s a foregone conclusion of something you must participate in if you want to “make it,” and yet I’ve rarely seen any sort of data to support the claim.

  5. I wish Michael Lewis had spoken more about not using social media. It seems like such a rare thing for journalists and writers to avoid these platforms that I think there’s a deeper story that’s being shrugged off. I’d love to read a long article about how professional writers market their work, why they choose to avoid social media, and more.

    Thanks for the article, Cal!

  6. Friedrich says:

    Today i joined a training session on instagram stories. Our best practice was that german television cook Johann Lafer who is now selling a book also and started an instagram account. I felt like this is just too much and i see a lot of celebrities showing this behaviour. Just doing more. Morer social media. Even more self branding.
    Funny thing, right after expressing my discomfort to the participants Cal’s article appeared on my screen and i felt pretty much better 🙂

  7. I used to think that I needed social media to stay engaged and promote the interesting things I was working on. I started engaging less and less and ultimately deleted all of my accounts.

    I don’t regret that decision at all.

    Now I have more time to focus on the things that really matter and am performing at a higher level at work.

  8. Sarah says:

    I love this! So refreshing! Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Your quiet decision to not use social media has powerful ripple effects. It’s possible! Yes! Thank you, Cal, for leading the way.

  9. Dan says:

    Hi Cal,

    I was wondering whether in your experience on the topic, is there anything someone with AD(H)S should be practicing differently (e.g. more intensely, more often, less etc.) than you provide as advice for the general knowledge worker?

    Just to be clear: not seeking or expecting medical or psychological advice here, just asking for your insights.

    Thanks a lot for your work!
    Best
    Dan

  10. Scott says:

    During the banter about Michael not using Social Media (on Tim’s podcast) Micheal was asked Where on the “internet” he could be “found”.
    Hes said “NO, I don’t DO social media”.
    Tim then spoke of when he interviewed Laird Hamilton (a famous big wave surfer) who uses no social media …Tim asked where he could be “found”.. He answered “The Pacific ocean”.

  11. Chris Wilson says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Cal. This was an incredible interview. Gave me a lot to reflect on.

    All of us at some point feel like the flag in a tug-of-war, one side marking what we feel the world is telling us we need to do, while the other side marks what we want to do. This becomes increasingly challenging when you venture into entrepreneurship. It’s a world of its own. Elon Musk likened entrepreneurship to “eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.” That’s how I feel about my addiction with my phone, social media and a lot of the digital technologies I find myself drawn to. It’s incredibly easy to lose sight of who you are through the false reality portrayed on social media. It’s like all the worst parts of highschool combined.

    What became clear in my own soul searching was that I have to do what works for me, not against me. It came back to the question I always ask myself when I need help slicing and dicing: Is what I’m doing today serving how I want to live my life? I was trading my time for something that provided no redeeming quality in my eyes. I increasingly found this to be the case in much of my use with digital technology. While others might find value and joy in social media, it’s not for me. The caveat being, I still use LinkedIn. It’s been a positive experience for my business.

  12. Helmi says:

    I bet Cal will never ever read left alone respond to these comments judging from his writings on these (i.e. Deep Work and Digital Minimalism).

    But I am happy to be proved wrong.

  13. Sebastien Tarnowski says:

    I deleted my social media accounts a long time ago. They’re such a waste of time except for companies to which our data are being sold…

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