In a recent interview with Axios held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, founding member, and former President of Facebook, Sean Parker, admitted that he and Mark Zuckerberg created the giant social network with the intent of it to be addictive. Sean Parker is also the co-founder of Napster who is a notable figure in silicone valley. Mr. Parker stated, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” A scary and significant statement, which confirms the massively negative impact social media can have on humans, as it seems to replace human interaction for some people.
Delving further into his explanation, Mr. Parker freely admitted that Facebook is “exploiting” people on purpose in an effort to keep them coming back in a never-ending revolving door. He used phrases like “social-validation feedback loop” and “exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with.” These statements are troubling and should serve as a warning that people should use social media in moderation, and not allow it to replace human interactions. In an age where online bullying is commonplace, parents, teachers, and administrators need to teach and practice restraint when it comes to using social media, especially Facebook.
On the subject of human interaction, Mr. Parker said very plainly, “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.” This interference can be seen in all facets of life. People lose sleep over an argument they had on Facebook or perhaps a mean comment. While out with friends or family, people are more interested in checking their phone than actually speaking with the people they are with in person. Even on our highways and streets, people have been killed because some folks just have to check their Facebook while they are driving. Don’t get me wrong, I think social media and Facebook are great tools if used in moderation, and we have to be mindful to do so.
Former Facebook president Sean Parker hits the company for its effect on society: “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains” pic.twitter.com/8GI0DykJGB
— Axios (@axios) November 9, 2017
Mr. Parker, who is a pivotal figure in the social media business, also correlates the use of social media to how the human brain interacts with drugs, saying, “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible? And that means that we need 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. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you more likes and comments.” This grabbing of the human consciousness has turned Facebook into an advertising giant, reaching about 2 billion people per month. For advertisers, this is a huge platform to reach a diverse target of customers.
Facebook has also been at the center of the controversy surrounding the 2016 Presidential election. Though the social media giant leans left, Facebook sold 3,000 ads to Russian entities. These Russian entities were intent on influencing the election. Upon further investigation, Facebook revealed that the Russian entities who bought these ads did so with the support of the Kremlin. In an attempt to appease advertisers, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer said, “we will continue to invest in our people and technology to help provide a safe place for civic discourse and meaningful connections on Facebook.” Mark Zuckerberg reiterated a similar sentiment but no one at Facebook has said they will forfeit any financial benefit they gained from these 3,000 ads.
Mark Zuckerberg has not responded to Mr. Parker’s comments, but it is a safe bet that Mark is none too pleased with Mr. Parker who joked that he would be blocked by Mark Zuckerberg because of his comments about how Facebook has affected society and especially children.
Facebook and social media like anything else have its uses and nneedto be used in moderation, but the issue is that Facebook does not want user moderation. They want people plugged in all the time, all day, and have seemingly achieved that goal.