Are you a social media addict? In the 21st century, it seems that most of us are addicted to our smartphones. More than a billion people use Facebook, and hundreds of millions more are glued to Twitter, Instagram, and WeChat. Social media is everywhere but is it damaging our lives? Some people say yes; others say no. Dr. Cal Newport reckons that staying off social media is beneficial for a number of reasons.

Watch and Listen

Let’s do a little vocabulary practice. Here’s a short PPT with some of the words that he uses. If you download it and play it in Microsoft Powerpoint, you can try to guess the word before it appears at the top of the screen. This will help you to remember it better. 🙂

Gap Fill

Listen to the beginning of the talk and fill in the gaps below, using no more than three words. (Answers are at the bottom of the page.)


All right. So you probably don’t realize that right now you’re actually looking at something quite rare, because I’m a ___1___ computer scientist book author standing on a TED stage and yet I’ve never had a _____2_____.
How this happened was actually somewhat random. Social media first came onto my radar when I was at college, my ____3____ of college. This was when Facebook arrived at our campus. And at the time which was right after the first dot-com bust, I had had a _____4____, I have had to shut it down in the bust. And then suddenly this other kid from Harvard named Mark had this product called Facebook and people were getting excited about it. So sort of a fit of somewhat immature ____5____ jealousy I said I’m not going to use this thing, I’m not going to help this get business —
See, as I go along my life, I look up not long later and I see that everyone I know is really ____6___ this thing and from the clarity you can get when you have some objectivity, some perspective on it, I realized this seems a little bit dangerous. So I never _____7_____. I’ve never had a social media account since.


The topic of social media – which is a mix of society and technology – could appear in the IELTS writing exam, so be prepared. Most likely it would occur in task 2. Let’s look at a question that’s very similar to Dr. Newport’s lecture:

Many people believe that effect of social media on both individuals and society has been negative. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

The question is pretty simple – decide whether you agree or disagree that social media’s effects are negative, and then argue your point. I would structure my essay like this:

  1. introduction – general statement
    • refine topic
    • essay outline
  2. 1st supporting reason
    • explain
    • example
  3. 2nd supporting reason
    • explain
    • example
  4. conclusion – paraphrase introduction and revisit body paragraphs

Here’s a video I made about analyzing and answering IELTS task 2 questions:

Sample Answer

Here’s my model essay:

In the last decade, social media has become vitally important to billions of people around the globe. However, despite bring people closer together, it has divided opinion and now many people think that its effects are negative. This essay will argue that social media is a force for good in this world, despite the problems it brings.

Although many people criticize social media companies for using people’s data and causing addiction, they provide a service that was previously unavailable to people. Prior to the internet, people had to use phones to communicate, and before that it was letters. Nowadays a mother can contact her children working on the other side of the world, and friendships can be formed across vast distances. Social media gives us this connection between people that even e-mail could not rival, and that is one reason why it is a positive thing.

Another reason in support of social media as a force for good is that although the companies tend to attract criticize for their size and power, they provide a platform for small businesses. In all parts of the globe, men and women can operate small businesses more easily by advertising and selling on social media. Facebook and Twitter allow their users to target potential customers in a way that was never before possible. For cash-strapped businesses, this tool is invaluable.

In conclusion, social media may have its faults, but its benefits to humanity outweigh those negative features. By bringing people together and lending a helping hand to small business owners, social media networks are making the world a better place.

Word count: 266


So… how do you feel about social media? In the video we heard arguments against it, and in the essay we read arguments for it. Let us know in the comments which side you are on. If you are a social media user, check out the TED-IELTS Facebook and Twitter pages. We also have a Facebook group now. Are you a Redditor? We’re also on Reddit. 😉


  1. millennial
  2. social media account
  3. sophomore year
  4. dorm room business
  5. professional
  6. hooked on
  7. signed up