Founding president of Facebook warns of social media dangers

Sean Parker was the founding president of Facebook, famously portrayed by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. He is the ultimate Facebook insider, giving unparalleled insight into the early design of the platform.

He confirms that their goal at Facebook (which subsequently became the playbook for other social media companies) was to figure out how to keep people engaged and coming back to the networks as much as possible.

“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?’

Like good hackers, Parker, Zuckerberg and the team were searching for vulnerabilities… in his words “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

These comments further highlight the importance of understanding how social media companies use psychological tactics to capture your attention and engender habit forming behaviour. You need to be conscious of their aggressive competition for your attention.

Watch Parker’s comments in the video below or read more here.

Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society

Chamath Palihapitiya was one of Facebook’s early employees, joining the company in 2007 and eventually rising to become vice-president of user growth. He subsequently left Facebook, started a venture capital firm and bought an ownership stake in the Golden State Warriors.

He has also spoken on the record about his views on the danger of social media, not only for individuals but for society collectively. As an early member of the famous Facebook growth engine, he has tremendous insight into the psychology and “dopamine-driven feedback loops” that makes the product so ‘sticky’ (a tech euphemism for ‘addictive’).

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

Chamath is also one of many tech insiders and executives (including Steve Jobs) who has publicly stated that he places restrictions on the smartphone and social media use of his children. In his own words: “I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”

Facebook is a product, a platform that because of its reach is having profound impacts on our society, many of which we are yet to understand. As a user it can keep you connected with friends, be a great source of information and a fun way to share content. It is not inherently bad or evil.

However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that there are potential side effects, and negative consequences of heavy use. The seriousness of these consequences is highlighted by the number of former employees making public statements. At the very least you should be making an informed, conscious decision about how you use the social network.

You can watch the whole video of Chamath’s chat at Stanford below, or read more about it here and here.