Maybe being on Facebook all the time isn’t good, says early leader of Facebook.
Sean Parker, cofounder of Napster and the first president of Facebook, now says that social media, Facebook included, is ” exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
“HOW DO WE CONSUME AS MUCH OF YOUR
TIME AND CONSCIOUS ATTENTION AS POSSIBLE?”
Speaking to news site Axios, Parker said that hopes of addicting people to social media were built into the networks from the beginning. Parker joined Facebook in 2004, when the company was known as “TheFacebook” and was exclusively the domain of college students. Parker tells Axios how confident he felt back then that the site could overcome any internal resistance towards the medium.
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying,” he says now, “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. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
The data is mixed on how social media and smartphones affect children and teenagers. High school students who are heavy social media users are no more likely to be depressed than light users, for example. However, studies have shown that individual networks can affect teenagers—Instagram’s negative impact among young women is observable, and a 2013 study showed that “Facebook use predicts negative shifts” in a young users moment-to-moment and longterm outlook.
But what’s not up for debate is social media’s place in many lives. Recent studies show that over a lifetime, an average person will spend 5 years and 4 months on social media. Parker now says that 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?
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop,” says Parker, who was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in 2010’s The Social Network. The framework of social media is “exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Social media has come under fire from all corners recently, from Russian hackers looking to exploit the 2016 election to struggling with showing death in real time. Parker’s comments show an industry coming to the realization that human psychology doesn’t always need to be hacked.