Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Vice President for User Growth at Facebook condemned social media, telling students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is truly where we are.”
He goes on to say, “Bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything you want. It’s a really, really bad state of affairs”
Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007, expressed regret, “I feel tremendous guilt…we all knew back in the deep, deep recesses of our minds we kind of knew something bad could happen.” He said they didn’t imagine it would lead to where we are now:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. 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. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
His appearance can be seen at the YouTube video below. In a shocking statement (see 22:28 minutes into the video), he tells the students, “if you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you.”
Explaining that our brains are being rewired for superfast, short-term feedback, the former Facebook exec advised, “You don’t realize it, but you are being programmed. It was unintentional, but now you’ve got to decide how much you’re willing to give up—how much of your intellectual independence.”
Palihapitiya’s advice for what to do about it?
He said, “It is a point in time where people need to hard brake from some of these tools and the things that you rely on. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore.”
He is adamant, “I can control my decisions which is I don’t use shit. I can control my kids’ decisions which is they’re not allowed to use this shit. Then I can go focus on diabetes and education and climate change that’s what I can do. Everybody else has to soul-search a little bit more about what you’re willing to do.”
Palihapitiya is not alone in his criticism as a former social media exec. Axios (a new media company founded on the belief that media is broken and often a scam) featured an interview with Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and former Facebook president. Axios reported that Parker calls himself “something of a conscientious objector” to social media who admitted that the thought process behind Facebook was, “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”
Parker said, “That means we have to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever…It’s a social-validation feedback loop…exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
The Guardian reported that Justin Rosenstein, who helped build the Facebook “like” button, said, “Everyone is distracted all of the time.” This refers to what the Guardian says is “a growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so called ‘continuous partial attention’, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ.”
A study by researchers from the University of Texas entitled “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity” concludes that the persistent presence of smartphones may come at a cognitive cost, stating:
“The mere presence of one’s own smartphone may occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance. Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity.”
There is increasing scrutiny of the power social media companies exert over political affairs, the spread of fake news, and even the role social media plays in fueling ethnic cleansing campaigns against the Rohingya in Myanmar where one reporter observed that posts containing false information about the Rohingya, “put Facebook at the center of a fierce information war that is contributing to the crisis involving the minority group. International human rights groups say Facebook should be doing more to prevent the hateful speech, focusing as much on global human rights as on its business.”
Axios reports that a “health-related campaign against Big Tech” is becoming more organized as critics question whether social media products from major companies like Facebook, Google, Apple sell addictive products that put young people at risk. Facebook, for one, is planning a “safety summit” to examine some of these issues.
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