A former Facebook executive believes social media networks are employing tools that are destroying society’s “social fabric,” the rules of conduct by which people interact in real life.
In a November discussion at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Former Facebook Vice President Chamath Palihapitiya revealed he feels “tremendous guilt” over his role in heading a company which is aiding the destruction of society.
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” Palihapitiya said, pointing to the insatiable need for “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.”
“No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem,” the venture capitalist stated. “So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
Palihapitiya also highlighted the way social media is able to manipulate mob mentality by referring to an incident in which seven Indian people were lynched due to a WhatsApp hoax.
“That’s what we’re dealing with,” he said. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”
“And we compound the problem, right? We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short-term signals – hearts, likes, thumbs up – and we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth. And instead what it really is is fake brittle popularity that’s short-term and that leaves you even more – and admit it – vacant and empty before you did it, because then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you’re like, ‘What’s the next thing I need to do now? Because I need it back.’ Think about that compounded by two billion people, and then think about how people react then to the perceptions of others.”
“Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” Palihapitiya said. “It was unintentional, but now you got to decide how much you are willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.
Similar to how Apple’s Steve Jobs didn’t allow his children to use Ipads, Palihapitiya referring to Facebook said his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.”
The former Facebook executive’s thoughts follow comments from the network’s first president Sean Parker, who in November revealed he believed the constant need for validation via social media was possibly re-wiring human brains.
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” Parker said at an Axios event.
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Amid slamming Facebook’s psychological model, Palihapitiya underscored the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world,” while at the same time highlighting the need for users to take “hard breaks” from the app.
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