Recently finished the book "Skärmhjärnan" by Anders Hansen. The book is about how our brains aren't adjusted to our modern society with smartphones and social media and what effects that really has on us.
A little bit about the author: Anders Hansen is a Swedish doctor, psychiatrist and author. Besides Skärmhjärnan, he has written Hjärnstark (2016) which has sold in over 500 000 copies. His summer talk "Why are we feeling so bad when we have got so much" has 3,1 millions plays and it is the most listened summer talk during 2019..
I had previously both read his other book Hjärnstark and listened to Hansens summer talk and really liked both of them. I love to learn more about how things such as our devices as well as exercise can have such a big impact on our brains.
In this book, Hansen shares information about how addictive we really have become to our phones. We usually touch our phones 2600 times a day and starts it every 10th minute. Around 40 % of us would rather have no voice than being away from our phones for a whole day and many people can't be away from our phones during night. This habit has been developed in such a short period of time and researchers are therefore looking more and more into how that really affects us.
You are probably all familiar with this but the reason why our phones are so addictive is partly because dopamine is released every time we open our phone or get a notification. And it is not just when something happens that dopamine is released. Even the anticipation that something will pop up in our phones releases dopamine.
Research has shown that the more time a person spends on social media, the more likely he or she is to feel sad. We fool ourselves to believe that more time on social media will make us feel less lonely but the result if oftentimes the opposite. Hansen shares that people who are passive rather than active on social media (e.g. just scrolling and not interactive) are most prone of feeling lonely. Moreover, social media let's us compare ourselves to other and we fool ourselves to believe that everyone else is having a much better life than us.
Something that is a bit telling about how detrimental smart phones acutally are is that people deeply involved with creating social media are limiting it for themselves and their children. Steve Jobs had strict rules about how much his kids could use their phones. Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Vice President of Facebook, has said that the short dopamine driven feedback lopes that social media creates will ruin our society. Justin Rosenstein, the man who created the like button on Facebook, has deleted Facebook on his phone as well as Snapchat and Reddit. Rosenstein argues that social media is similar to heroine - just as addictive and devastating for people trying to live their lives.
Children are actually extra vulnerable to social media. This is because some parts of the brain, the front part, are not fully developed until we are 25-30 years old. It is this part of the brain that regulates our risk taking and reward system. Children can for example get angry when you talk about them to limit their screen time because the addiction is so strong.
In conclusion, I thought the book was interesting and it is about a highly relevant topic. I have to confess that I more or less consider myself a smartphone addict and it was good to learn about the negative effects. I really enjoyed the advice Hansen gave in the end of the book to limit one's screen time.
On the negative side, I feel that the book is a little bit too one-sided. Hansen is presenting a lot of research but I get a feeling that he is only presenting research that is in line with his thesis, that smartphones are not good for us. I guess that is the problem with every book or movie that has a strong message but I would have appreciated if Hansen could present some more research about how smart phones actually can be good for us. For example, I recently read a study which found that moderate use of smartphones can boost well-being among teens. Maybe we should view smartphones as we view for example cars; cars are dangerous and they can make us more inactive when we substitute them for walking or biking. However, if you use cars safely they can transport us and our kids to for example a soccer game which could increase our well-being (socially and physically). Most new technologies have at least some negative side effects and and even though smartphones can lead to many positive things, I agree with Hansen that we have to be cautious and eventually set up rules for ourselves to lower the risk of using it in the wrong way.
Have you read the book? :)