Professionalism/Chamath Palihapitiya and Facebook

Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital Partnership speaks onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt

Background[1]Edit

History of FacebookEdit

According to AudienceProject, Facebook is the most commonly used app globally. "Facebook rules the social media sphere in both the US, UK and Nordics. In all countries, Facebook is the social media with the highest reach in the online population. However, among the young people other social media challenge Facebook's leading position." In the U.S., 26% of Americans chose Facebook as the app they least can do without.[2]

2004Who are you?

Facebook was developed on February 4, 2004. Initially, Facebook acted as an online directory exclusively for university students. According to an editorial from 34th Street Magazine, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Facebook was addictive from the beginning. "I have a new addiction. It is powerful. It is disturbing. It is thefacebook.com."

2006-2008What are you doing when?

Facebook then transitioned as a media text book in 2006. Facebook was available to the public and had additional features such as lowering age restriction and other languages. Facebook became a platform for users to have blogs on their own profile pages. Sharing and marketing on both mobile and desktop applications became available.

2008-2013Where are you?

Facebook developed profiles and networking friends. Online expressions and interactions became prevalent. On January 2009, nearly 19 million people viewed the first live video streaming. The "Like" and "Share" buttons were also created for users to quickly and easily react to posts. Facebook Connect made it possible to extend the range of sites with Facebook access, e.g. Twitter.

Facebook started as a simple directory to ask "Who are you?". Facebook then evolved to asking "What are you doing when?". Lastly, Facebook became a platform where questions like "Where are you in the digital universe with your Facebook profile?" and "Where are you in the physical world with your mobile device?". The push and pull from digital and physical worlds causes social media issues globally.[3]

Chamath Palihapitiya's Criticism of FacebookEdit

Chamath Palihapitiya, the former head of Facebook user growth from 2007–2011, regrets having created tools that "are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works." Social media platforms like Facebook are undermining the freedoms and the well-being of individuals. Cyberbullying, trolling, privacy invasions, fake news, online firestorms, no civil discourse, no cooperation, mistruth and addictive-use can cause exacerbated self-consciousness and "fear of missing out". These effects "can result in increased levels of anxiety, sleep loss, and depression." Furthermore, social media can cause work-life conflicts and interruptions that increase exhaustion.[4]

From an interview with CNBC, Chamath Palihapitiya stated the following: "Why is anxiety and depression amongst our teenagers higher than they've ever been ... In a world that is safer. In a world that's more constructive. In a world where you should have access to everything. What is going on? And we just have to figure this out and talk about it." Chamath Palihapitiya explains how the Facebook model exploits human weaknesses and how Facebook knew in the back of their mind what they're creating as a tool. Chamath Palihapitiya wants to address the issue and offer possible solutions. One solution is to lessen or even remove social media usage. He prohibits his three children from any social media. "There's no screen time whatsoever." [5]

Facebook's ResponseEdit

Palihapitiya's remarks on Facebook destroying society drew immediate attention across news outlets. As his statement proliferated social media platforms, Facebook responded with a statement explaining its recent growth trajectory, and how it had worked to update its responsibilities and improve its understanding of Facebook’s services on user well-being. Facebook stated that “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.” [6] In addition, Facebook claims it is willing to reduce profitability to make the right investments towards improving society.

Some media outlets were surprised by some of the content within Facebook’s response to Palihapitiya. Chris Welch stated that Facebook didn’t seem to be completely rejecting the claims made by Palihapitiya about social media damaging society, and rather that “the underlining message seems to be that the Facebook of today is a far cry from the company he once worked for, and his perceptions are out-of-date.” [7] This suggests Facebook may have acknowledged several of the problems Palihapitiya described when it was first created, and required a series of drastic changes to its product and services to correct its seemingly negative outlook towards society. Regardless of debate over Facebook and Palihapitiya’s views, both sides appear to accept the need for change in improving how social media can influence society as a whole.

Autonomy and SociabilityEdit

 
Society is slowly becoming more like Zimbu the Monkey

Social Media AddictionEdit

Social media addiction is prevalent. A study shows that "individuals in poor mental health often try to use social media to improve their mood, and when this need is not met, their mental condition tends to become worse." Low self-esteem has shown to be linked with poor academic performance. Students who struggle with school tend to be on social media more often. The same study showed that reducing social media improved students' mental health and learning efficiency.[8]

According to Caglar Yildrim, a professor of human-computer interaction at the State University of New York at Oswego, people actually experience severe anxiety when parted from their device. "This might negatively affect your social life and relationships with friends and family. There are studies that show those who score high on the test tend to avoid face-to-face interactions, have high levels of social anxiety, and maybe even depression. It might affect your ability to work or study, because you want to be connected to your smartphone all the time." Technology jeopardizes peoples' mental health. According to Pew Research Center, technology addiction distracts driving. "... Nearly half of adults who use text messaging said they had sent or received messages while driving." Texting and driving can result in severe injuries or even death.[9]

Chamath Palihapitiya describes these effects as "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops." According to Chamath Palihapitiya from a Stanford Biz School Talk, he states that "The short term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we've created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth, and it's not an American problem — this is not about Russian ads. this is a global problem."

According to a study, "While media keep improving, our social behavior online seems to stagnate, at best. It sometimes even seems that social media are destroying many of the human traits that made us a social species in the first place." On Facebook, people are involved in open and closed groups for "socializing, entertainment, self-status seeking, and information purposes." These groups cause people to reassure themselves by amplifying and reinforcing their beliefs and shaming nonconformists. This is known as the ingroup-outgroup bias. People become addicts to social media when their beliefs and interests are amplified. They also express hatred in forms of exclusion to outsiders. Social media was created to connect people. However, it seems to be splitting society apart.[4]

Why is Facebook Addicting?Edit

Facebook, like many other companies, exploit human psychology. Facebook makes money by advertising revenue, which is directly correlated to attracting and keeping users' attentions. Products with exclusive features hook the users. For Facebook, the ability to communicate and engage with friends and family from anywhere in the world promotes users to use the application more. According to Daria Kuss, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, "Tech companies develop their products in order to make them appealing and user-friendly, so you're keen to use them." Facebook users customize personal profiles and indicate interests by engaging with content. Users' reactions are analyzed by Facebook algorithms which serve more content that better matches the users' preferences. Thus, users visit and revisit the site, making them a richer target for advertising. According to Sean Parker, a former president of Facebook, companies "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." Sean Parker describes it as a "social validation feedback loop." [9]

Exploitation of Human PsychologyEdit

Palihapitiya’s view on the detrimental effect social media has on the well-being of society is one shared by many, including researchers, business executives, or even influential policymakers. Sean Parker explains that looking back in the early 2000s, his team was intent on answering the question, “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” The effects of this pursuit for consumers’ attention has become prevalent throughout society, where individuals commonly spend hours on social media every day. In addition, Parker also describes human fascination with Facebook and social media as “…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.” [1]

With multiple former Facebook executives echoing the idea that social media exploits vulnerability in human psychology, Palihapitiya contends the only solution is to take a step back from Facebook and social media as a whole. Though he faced pushback against his statements on Facebook causing social harm from his former peers at Facebook, Palihapitiya says “people need a hard break from some of these tools and the things you rely on,” referring to consumers who use Facebook daily to an excessive extent.[10] Although social media addiction is not classified as a mental health disorder, it may be a necessary solution. According to Daria Kuss, the most important step is truly understanding there is a problem. "Overall, we need to create an increased awareness of our technology use. Our phones allow us to check the time we spend on specific applications and I recommend having a look at this — it's quite enlightening. The time we spend using these apps is often longer than we think." [9]

Palihapitiya suggests that Facebook is not only addictive to individuals, but also serves as a platform where people can also easily spread misinformation and promote sensationalism using the number of hearts or likes a post has as a measure for popularity. He states that large groups of people are able to be manipulated simultaneously, and calls Facebook’s system of “reactions”, which include “liking” posts, “…fake, brittle popularity that’s short-term and leaves you even more, admit it, vacant and empty before you did it.” [11] The rapid proliferation of social media in the past several decades implies a need for further research into social media’s long-term effects on the well-being of consumers.

ReferencesEdit

  1. a b Allen, M. (2017, November 09). Sean Parker unloads on Facebook: "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains". Retrieved May 5, 2019, from https://www.axios.com/sean-parker-unloads-on-facebook-god-only-knows-what-its-doing-to-our-childrens-brains-1513306792-f855e7b4-4e99-4d60-8d51-2775559c2671.html
  2. Werliin, R. (2017). Insights 2017: Apps & Social Media Usage in the US, UK & Nordics. Retrieved from https://www.audienceproject.com/wp-content/uploads/audienceproject_study_apps_social_media_usage.pdf
  3. Brügger, N. (2015). A brief history of Facebook as a media text: The development of an empty structure. First Monday, 20(5). doi:10.5210/fm.v20i5.5423
  4. a b Baccarella, C. V., Wagner, T. F., Kietzmann, J. H., & Mccarthy, I. P. (2018). Social media? Its serious! Understanding the dark side of social media. European Management Journal, 36(4), 431-438. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2018.07.002
  5. CNBC. (2017, Dec 12). Former Facebook Exec Chamath Palihapitiya On Social Media, Bitcoin, And Elon Musk (Full) | CNBC [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zyRpq2ODrE
  6. Salinas, S. (2017, December 12). Facebook slams former exec Palihapitiya, saying it 'was a very different company back then, and we've grown'. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/12/facebook-slams-palihapitiya.html
  7. Welch, C. (2017, December 12). Facebook responds to former VP who said social media is destroying society. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/12/16767228/facebook-destroying-society-response-chamath-palihapitiya
  8. Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., & Wang, Q. (2019). Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation, and intervention. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13(1). doi:10.5817/cp2019-1-4
  9. a b c Kugler, L. (2018). Getting Hooked on Tech: Are Technology Companies Maximizing Profits by Making Users Addicted to Their Products? Communications of the ACM, 61(6), 18-19. doi:10.1145/3204447
  10. Zetlin, M. (2017, December 12). Former Facebook VP Says We Are All Being "Programmed" by Social Media. Retrieved May 5, 2019, from https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/former-facebook-vp-says-social-media-is-ripping-us-apart-we-should-all-take-a-hard-break.html
  11. Wang, A. B. (2017, December 12). Former Facebook VP says social media is destroying society with 'dopamine-driven feedback loops'. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/12/12/former-facebook-vp-says-social-media-is-destroying-society-with-dopamine-driven-feedback-loops/