One social media juggernaut is under fire from a former top-tier executive for dismantling society one “like” at a time. Chamath Palihapitiya, once vice president of user growth for Facebook, is calling out his former employer with what one can assume is post-mortem regret for his part in the platform’s meteoric rise of misinformation distribution.
During a recent speaking engagement at Stanford School of Business, Palihapitiya expressed overwhelming guilt and apologized by saying, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” I could not agree more.Palihapitiya
And Palihapitiya isn’t the only former Facebook executive who believes social media is dangerous:
“In November, early investor Sean Parker said he has become a “conscientious objector” to social media, and that Facebook and others had succeeded by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” A former product manager at the company, Antonio Garcia-Martinez, has said Facebook lies about its ability to influence individuals based on the data it collects on them, and wrote a book, Chaos Monkeys, about his work at the firm.”
That vulnerability is the dependence on the idea that the people who like or comment on a post determine your worth. Don’t believe it? Have you ever just ignored a friend on social media? Give it a whirl; the resulting high school style drama may surprise you. But back to Facebook’s problems.
Sean Parker (Napster Fame) was an early investor in Facebook and has become even more rich for doing so. He is also candid about the role that he played that he now, like Palihapitiya, regrets:
“Parker says the social networking site exploits human psychological vulnerabilities through a validation feedback loop that gets people to constantly post to get even more likes and comments. “It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” he said. “The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”
And now a whole generation of people have discovered their narcissistic side. It has also brought about a dark and dangerous aspect to the standard attention seeker online; the depraved individuals who now have an outlet for showcasing their sadistic side either, by posting a video or with the latest option of going “live.”
In 2016, four people in Chicago were arrested for beating a mentally impaired man. They were identified easily as their woman companion recorded and distributed to her Facebook page. Two girls in Canada videoed the murder of a classmate and posted it on both their pages. And last year in Florida, a man went live and brutally killed a stranger on the street. Not to say that these incidents would not have happened, but they may inspire other mentally ill people to do the same.
The problem might be American made, but the reach is global. Social media postings are responsible for the lynching deaths of seven people in India after postings appeared about kidnappings. The messages were a hoax. As Palihapitiya states, “That’s what we’re dealing with. 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.”
Well, here it is, in the extreme.Wirathu
In Myanmar, where Facebook dominates the web, the social media giant is being blamed for the surge towards the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya, an Indo-Aryan group, who are not on the list of recognized people in Myanmar. An outspoken ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu uses his Facebook page to share his false narrative and encourage violence against who he refers to as “Muslim dogs.”
Instead of censoring conservative groups, maybe the Facebook thinkers should worry about Myanmar a tad more.
When Facebook replaced the teenage driven My Space by appealing to adults and creating a user-friendly platform, friends and families rejoiced at instant connections. Sharing real-time photos and experiences, finding long lost school friends, and raising money for good causes made us all want to fire up and log onto our newsfeed to catch up. Now, it’s full of hate speech, fake news, and clickbait silliness that pads the pockets of the folks pulling the levers behind the curtain. Perhaps those good old days are gone. Or on the other hand, maybe the people who use social media should educate themselves and show a bit of restraint when clicking on outrageous headlines. Your search engine of choice is just a click away, you know—use it. And frankly, most people who demonstrate a modicum of common sense only want to see funny animal videos, share old memories on Throwback Thursday and smile over the photos from their last class reunion.