Former Facebook exec: Social media is “ripping society apart”

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.

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