OLDER readers – well, those from last week – will remember my travails on coming back from holiday to discover my computer had been hacked. The hacker in question is a Russian, who appears to go by the name Izabella. This week, as Izabella continues to probe away at my internet security, I feel as though I’ve got to know her a bit better. From the accounts she has attacked, she is someone who likes playing computer games, buying clothes and watching TV. She even added an additional profile to my Netflix account, as though she was a child I never knew I had (insert your own Boris Johnson joke here).

It’s been revealing to see which companies are interested in your internet security. Top of the pile, in terms of speed and help, have been Next: bumping along the bottom are Facebook and Instagram, offering no direct way for users to contact them.

My current opinion of the social media companies has probably not been helped by reading a new book called The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour. Taking its name from a Paul Klee painting, Seymour’s book is an exploration of how social media has taken over our lives and changed how we have behaved.

Some of the statistics regarding social media use are staggering: total users are estimated to reach three billion by next year, with the average time spent on social media sites coming in at 135 minutes a day. Extrapolating that over a lifetime equals 50,000 hours spent on social media: given the average human only has 400,000 waking hours to play with, that’s quite a chunk of your existence.

Seymour chronicles how social media companies use tactics similar to gambling firms in keeping users online, and how those who created the sites keep off them themselves: Jonathan Rosentein, who developed Facebook’s ‘like’ button, deleted his app after seeing the consequences; Mark Zuckerberg’s account is run by his employees; Tim Cook won’t allow his nephew to sign up. Worryingly, there is a linkage between the rise in use of social media and the growth of mental health issues. Rates of depression have increased globally by 18 per cent since 2005: the correlation between Instagram usage and depression among young people is particularly, well, depressing.

As Seymour argues, no technology by itself is good or bad, but neither is it neutral. He looks at the earlier rise of Minitel, a French state-owned forerunner of the Internet as a way this all could have gone. Instead, it was the likes of Facebook that took over: unregulated, unchecked and, as I have discovered these last few weeks, uninterested and unresponsive to its users.

Maybe I should warn Izabella before it is too late.