I Doubt That We Can Blame Society's Destruction on Facebook

First I saw the headline "Man who became rich from Facebook criticizes social network for destroying how society works" and the next day I read "Facebook responds to criticism that the network is destroying how society works." Chamath Palihapitiya joined Facebook in 2007 and served as its vice president for user growth. He is "the man" in the headline with a net worth near $1 billion, and one thing he has said is “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works." Those loops include things such as the "like" button and other ways we can "engage" with content we see in our News Feed.

Since leaving Facebook, he has entered venture capital  and runs his own VC firm focusing on investing in technology, healthcare, and education. He is not adverse to still investing in social media - his firm is an investor in Slack, for example.

A video of Palihapitiya speaking at Stanford Graduate School of Business in November created a buzz online. The buzz grew louder because earlier Facebook's founding president Sean Parker had also made a comment about Facebook "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

In their response, Facebook pointed out that "Chamath has not been at Facebook for over 6 years. When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then, and as we have grown, we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve. We've done a lot of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand the effects of our service on well-being, and we're using it to inform our product development."

Mark Zuckerberg said on his most recent earnings call that "We are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made."

Society's ills are many. Facebook has flaws. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election content on Facebook had an impact. But so did the squawking on Twitter and every other social network and on every traditional and cable news outlet. If Facebook disappeared overnight, the problem would not be solved.


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