Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya recently shared his strong views on social media in a speech at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In 2007 Palihapitiya became Facebook’s vice president for user growth. He now feels “tremendous guilt” for building a company that is truly “ripping society apart.”
“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” says Palihapitiya. His advice for people now is to take a “hard break” from all social media platforms. Social media in general takes advantage of weaknesses in human psychology. Social media’s short-term feedback loops are designed to drive up dopamine levels in user’s brains, therefore addicting user’s to short bursts of satisfaction and short-lived feelings of acceptance and admiration. Facebook is particularly a breeding ground for narcissistic behavior and is creating a culture all about self. Instead of talking and listening, users often make assumptions based on misinformation and personal bias, which ultimately destroys civil discourse and understanding.
Instead of enjoying time around a campfire, taking long walks or riding bikes with family and friends, more people spend their time indoors, behind a screen, interacting with “thumbs-up” and “like” symbols, among other point and click activities that distort real human relationships.
Firms from various countries, ideologies and political groups put out Facebook ads and memes that prey on the emotions of select demographics of Facebook users. The political and belief-driven themes become divisive tools that define people’s images and reputations. The divisive tricks destroy real-world cooperation while spreading misinformation and stereotyping people’s identities.
He says that manipulators are very capable of using Facebook to get other people to do what they want. One of the examples he gave included a hoax message about kidnappings on WhatsApp. The hoax led to the lynching of seven innocent people in India.
Palihapitiya joins a growing chorus of former Facebook employees who do not use the site and admit to the corporation’s deceptive ways. Former Facebook product manager Antonio Garcia-Martinez admitted that Facebook lies about its ability to manipulate and influence its users based on the data they collect about them. Facebook investor Sean Parker now objects to all social media because companies such as Facebook only succeed because they “exploit vulnerability in human psychology.”
While there are many good uses for social media sites, it’s easy to fall into the traps that are intentionally designed to keep you on the site longer. Many users become addicted to the dopamine rush of getting more “likes.” Others feel like social media gives them a broader voice and constantly look for those who agree and cheer them on in the comments. When the likes and support don’t show up, users don’t get the fix that their brain relies on. This simple fact of human psychology wires the brain to be attention seeking. (Related: Woman shoots and kills her boyfriend in YouTube stunt gone incredibly wrong.)
Users with low emotional intelligence will use the site to further lash out for more attention, sympathy, or admiration. The assumptions and frivolous arguments that result from the ups and downs of exploited human psychology ultimately change people’s perspectives on one another in real life, causing issues that get blown out of proportion and further betrayal.
With all the warnings coming out about social media’s dark side from former Facebook employees, it is imperative that users cut back on time spent on social media. In order to maintain a healthy mind and prevent being manipulated, users should vow to use the social media platforms only for productive purposes or not use them at all.