The social networks “designed to tear us aside” – Podcasts of the week | Podcasts

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Picks of the week

Sudhir breaks the internet
Sudhir Venkatesh has an impressive résumé who has worked for the FBI, Facebook and Twitter. He’s also a sociologist, which means he can look back on his time with government and big tech examining the growth of online misinformation with an expert eye. Don’t expect a blatant look at the big ethical and practical dilemmas facing social media in this new Freak Anomics podcast. His first installment, entitled “Designed to Tear Us Apart,” is about how division and hatred thrived on the platforms he worked for – and the indolence behind the scenes. Hannah J Davies

Secret sauce
What’s the special ingredient that makes a company revolutionize the way people do things? Entertaining entrepreneurs John Frye and Sam Donner search for the magic of successful businesses that stand out from the crowd in their new podcast. First and foremost is Airbnb’s story, starting with the question, “Who would let a total stranger come and stay in their house?” The answer lies in the phenomenal growth of the company and in what makes a company a “unicorn”. The show is enlivened by the stories of Frye and Donner about accidentally getting Taylor Swift out of the way during a pitch. Hannah Verdier

‘Scarecrows, fire and hardened tongues’ … BBC Sounds’ The Sink. Photo: BBC

Selected by Nicholas Alexander

Do you ever come to a podcast to fall asleep? I do. Each night. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be familiar with the feeling of drifting away while listening. Sentences float around you without their meaning. Words gather in small incoherent clusters on the edge of consciousness as you walk a tightrope on the edge of sleep.

In BBC Sounds’ comedy horror ‘Schlafhilfe’ The Sink, writer Natasha Hodgson, producer Andy Goddard and composer David Cumming somehow managed to recreate that feeling through the alchemy of language and sound.

Even when I try to remember certain scenes in order to write this piece, I slip away like dreams. I think this has something to do with the lack of internal logic – shapes shift, places stagger, characters change – but I can’t be sure. What I remember is that there are birds, scarecrows, fires, swimming pools and other things.

I also remember the dreamlike quality of Hodgson’s prose: “You are more tired around your face, your eyes are dirty and your tongue has become hard.” “Your colors have been pushed around, now everything is very, very close to your ears” – and that Alice Lowe’s readings are an absolute dream.

I can only recommend it, but with one caveat. Don’t listen while you’re trying to fall asleep. This podcast is a lot of things – intricately written, breathtakingly beautiful, loudly funny, unusually disturbing – but it doesn’t help you get a good night’s sleep.

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