Is Facebook just really good at giving the public what it wants, or is this Professor blowing the whistle on something significant?
He’s making some pretty strong claims about the social media powerhouse. Do YOU believe him?
Sean Parker, 38, Facebook’s founding president spoke at an Axios event and gave some ‘behind the scenes’ information on social media platforms and human psychology.
He claims that social media exploits the reward centers of the brain using a positive reward feedback loop. He literally compared the process of consciously exploiting human psycology to the way a hacker consciously exploits the software of a computer. Not just Facebook per se, but all social media as a whole.
He’s essentially saying that we’re addicts. And more, that was the goal all along.
Remember when we used to laugh at people who had to be ‘connected’ all the time? We used to use words like ‘CrackBerry’ (speaking of people who had to check their Blackberry ever couple of minutes). But as a culture, we’ve already shifted so far that restaraunts are offering rewards to customers who leave their phones out of reach while on silent so they can have an uninterrupted conversation, and there are social penalties about the first one to pick up his phone during a meal having to pay the whole table’s tab.
That’s a change many of us never saw coming.
Check out what Parker — himself a Facebook insider — is publicly saying about how Facebook grew to be the juggernaut so many of us have come to know and use:
- “When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, … ‘We’ll get you eventually.'”
- “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, 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 legitimate concern over how social media (and technology in general) affects the developing brain has been well-documented.
- “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?'”
- “And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”
- “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
- “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.”
That would throw a lot of those ‘Digital Detox challenges’ into a different light. There are lots of them online.
Here’s the comments from one writer in Australia who took such a challenge. Ask yourself whether this lines up with what Parker is saying about social media platforms generally.
Normally I check my phone each time I get a notification, and outside of that I check Facebook every 30 minutes, Snapchat every hour, Instagram every two hours and Twitter every four hours, so I feel anxious at the idea of taking five days off. I use social to contact people and stay up-to-date with my friends and the world, so I think I will feel a bit lost. I tell my close friends that I won’t be contactable on social media – they’ll have to text or email.
Right after deleting the apps, I feel liberated – as if I will immediately become more productive. But 30 minutes later I start to kick myself. I will miss Facebook the most because my friends organise social events and I won’t know what’s going on. After a few hours I imagine there is something that I’m missing out on already and I feel stressed about it. I try to distract myself by shopping online. I know that I’m probably not missing anything important, but I still feel the need to get back on and see what I’ve missed. When I go to bed I have an unsettling feeling because I always look at my accounts before going to sleep. [emphasis added]
It’s a big idea, with potentially huge social implication, especially now that they and a few others have a virtual monopoly on messaging over the internet.
by Doug Giles
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