Thinking About Smartphones

Following my own recent reflections on the negative effects of social media, I was excited to see that Panorama were going to cover this topic in their own show this week.

If you didn’t catch it, please promise me you’ll give it a re-watch on iPlayer, it was so interesting! From facts about the sheer size of our use (a third of the entire planet is now on Facebook, and one in three adults checks their phone in the middle of the night), to interviews with people on the inside (like the lady who invented the Facebook ‘Like’ button but then realised how it was impacting on her own self-esteem in a dangerous way).


The documentary opened my eyes to some social media platform functionalities that I hadn’t even thought about before, like the endless scroll which is specifically designed to get you hooked, never allowing your brain to catch up with its impulses.

Some of the most eye-opening elements of the show are the behavioural experiments, including one that shows the stress hormones we produce when our notifications come through – we release a fight or flight response as we know we’re missing out on something.

Mind control and addiction specifically is explored, and how apps are designed to ensure we release a dopamine hit which then further fuels this addiction, how chemically some of our reactions (like the way we act when we are forced to withdraw) mirror the behaviour of drug addicts.

It’s great to see some time on the BBC dedicated to exploring this, and I bet they could have filled more than 30 minutes as it is all very rushed.

I say it’s definitely time for a longer series on this subject, what one interviewee aptly describes as “[us], the largest behavioural experiment the world has ever seen.”

Watch the programme now on BBC iPlayer.