The Black Mirror Effect

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Living vicariously through your online self.


It is 11pm on a Tuesday night. Tomorrow morning is the big presentation you have been preparing weeks for and you make moves for an early bedtime. You set the alarm on your phone and plop right into bed. The room is nearly pitch black as you begin shutting your eyes. You are on your way into rem sleep when suddenly...vzzzzzzt; a notification illuminates the room with a piercing flash of light. Fully awakened and tempted, you check that notification of a Snapchat. But a Snapchat turns into a google search, then a twitter check, an Instagram gander, and before you know it, it's 3am and you're editing your Facebook profile picture.

Many young adults and teenagers have fallen prey to their own devices-- it's the Black Mirror Effect.

While the Black Mirror Effect is something I merely coined based on the technological dystopian British program Black Mirror, it describes our society's current dilemma; we have become entranced by technology and slaves to our screens.

Here are some statistics:

  • 95% of all teens (13-17 years of age) are actively online.
  • In 2016, 81% of online teens have some sort of social media account, which is up from 55% in 2006. According to a recent study by the UK disability charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62% reported feeling inadequate and 60% reported feelings of jealousy when comparing themselves to other users.
  • Teens who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress.
  • Instagram has proven to be the worst social networking site for mental health-related issues.

Online games, dating apps, and social media in particular have negative effects on the happiness of Millennials and Generation Z. The increasing number of depressed, sleep-deprived hyper-texters measuring their self-worth by a Facebook post is frightening. Adam Alter, social psychologist and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, mentions the effects of addiction on social media usage.

Now do not misunderstand, screens are not the bane of existence. Screens have revolutionized the world. Calling friends and loved ones over video chats was not possible a few years back and today, we have opportunities to see a familiar face or "attend" an event. It's quite incredible that our devices can function as a remote, open your car, act as a GPS, count your steps, and even check your heart rate! There's power in revolution, but the problem with too much power is the lack of self-control.

The true culprit behind these addictive behaviors is a common feature of many social media apps--endless scrolling. As Adam Alter suggests, with the lack of stopping cues we have the ability to indulge ourselves into an infinite amount of scrolling. Without an endpoint, it is difficult to determine where and when to stop at any given moment.

So how can we put a cap on screen usage? Is legislation over the top? Believe it or not, there is indeed legislation dubbed "Cinderella Laws" already proposed and up for debate in South Korea and China. While that is still just a debate, what can YOU do now? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Put it on airplane mode. That way notifications, texts, and emails are not on the radar.
  • When going to an event, such as a concert or festival, keep your phone in your bag. Challenge yourself to not Snapchat or "go live" while you are at these events. Just live the experience without your phone.
  • Pick a time of day not to pull your phone out. Dinner time would be a great opportunity to put the phone down.
  • Set time restraints. If 11pm is your bedtime, 9:59pm should be the last minute your thumbs touch that screen.
  • Get an alarm clock. It may be "old school" nowadays but using your phone as a bedtime alarm can prompt temptation. Nothing wrong with a good old fashion alarm clock!

There is bliss in unplugging yourself from the digital world and, as I have learned through my nights of sleep deprivation, getting a full eight hours will not only save you from dark circles and zombie eyes, but you'll ace that big presentation, improve your mental health, and open yourself up to "screenless" experiences. Go live without your phone, and live your life through your own eyes.


Abrams, Allison. "Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media." Psychology Today, Sussex Publisher...

Alter, Adam. "Why our screens make us less happy." YouTube, uploaded by TED, 1 August 2017, www.yout...

Cottle, Julia. "Facebook and Mental Health: Is Social Media Hurting or Helping?" Mental Help, 15 Mar...

Dreifus, Claudia. "Why We Can't Look Away From Our Screens." The New York Times, 6 Mar. 2017. www.ny...

MacMillan, Amanda. "Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health." Time, 25 May 2017. w...

Alyssa-DelValle.pngWRITTEN BY
Alyssa Del-Valle
Macmillan Learning

With a BA in Communications and Music and a "Mouseters" in all things 
Disney, when not writing fabulous articles this native New Yorker is either making up songs in her head about her daily interactions, practicing voice overs for the next hair care commercial, or munching on Doritos she couldn't resist grabbing at her local bodega. The purple bag is hard to resist.