Why TED Talks Are Destroying Us

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Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

TED Talks have become the epicenter for great ideas. Influencers from all walks of life stand on a stage and deliver a 5–20 minute talk about a subject ranging from psychology, education, productivity, relationships, business, among other topics.

Watch a few videos and you’ll feel enlightened. What a professor at a research institution spent years of their life studying you’ve learned in 15 minutes.

It seems too good to be true.

We think by consuming a few TED Talk videos, we’ve acquired knowledge to carry us through our lives.

The harsh reality is TED Talks are ruining us. But how so? What’s wrong with consuming content to make us healthier, smarter, and more productive people?

There are two major problems, along with one simple solution.

Problem #1 — Consolidation

Think about how a top-viewed Ted Talk came to fruition. For example, take Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on the concept of grit. Before her TED talk, Duckworth wrote a book titled Grit, in which she discusses the importance of having passion and perseverance to follow through on long term goals.

If you read Grit before watching Duckworth’s TED talk, you’ll recognize plenty of details are left out from the book. Duckworth glosses over concepts in 30 seconds — the same concepts discussed for pages on end in her book.

Watching a TED Talk is like watching a movie that’s based on a book. If you watched the Harry Potter movies without reading the books, would you be considered truly knowledgeable?

I’ll let a Harry Potter fan who bothered to read all the books be the judge of that.

Problem #2 — Lack of Pondering

Consuming TED Talks is a passive experience. You watch the video, quickly digest the information, and then continue on with your day. The whole lesson is completed in one sitting.

There must be breaks between concepts. It’s during breaks you have time to ponder what you learned. During times of pondering, one can immerse in whatever ideas, arguments, or concepts were discussed.

TED Talks are not designed to encourage pondering. As soon as you finish the video, you go on with your screen time, whether that’s checking emails or surfing the web for dank memes.

The Solution — Read a Dang Book

Yeah that’s right, crack open a book. Instead of consuming TED Talks, read words on a page.

Books force you to stretch a concept over weeks at a time (unless you read at this woman’s pace).

In the time you read a book, you enter what I’ve deemed the read-ponder seesaw. Read for a while, ponder for a while. Read some more, ponder some more. Read during the day, ponder at night.

It’s the moments of pondering, or self-reflection, that stamps the content of a book into our minds.

What’s most important isn’t the consumption of content, but rather how we internalize that information within our minds and into our lives.

When it comes to deep learning, there are no shortcuts.  I’m not saying ditch TED Talks completely. There’s a place for content in short bundles. TED Talks are a nice way to preview content if it’s worth digging into further.

Just ensure TED Talks don’t remove the need to read books. TED Talks should supplement books, not replace them.


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