Former Napster co-Founder and Facebook President Sean Parker blasted social media in a recent interview for “exploiting” human psychology.
In a recent interview with Axios, former Facebook President Sean Parker discussed the possible negative psychological effects of social media. Parker, the founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, spoke at an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he discussed social media. Parker described himself as “something of a conscientious objector” to social media in general.
Parker discussed the number of people that were against social media when Facebook first started, telling Parker that they’d never join the online world as they valued intimacy and living in the moment. Parker was quite confident that before long they’d be scrolling through a newsfeed like two billion other Facebook users:
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.’
Parker discussed the possible psychological effects of social media and Facebook in particular, especially for children who are now growing up in a digitally connected age:
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 former Facebook President discussed the company’s initial aim, which was mainly centered around drawing in and building their audience:
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.
Parker described Facebook’s appeal as a “social-validation feedback loop” which exploits human psychology to keep users coming back to the app:
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.
Parker also briefly discussed how his vast wealth is likely to allow him to live longer than the average person due to advances in medical science:
Because I’m a billionaire, I’m going to have access to better health care so … I’m going to be like 160 and I’m going to be part of this, like, class of immortal overlords. [Laughter] Because, you know the [Warren Buffett] expression about compound interest. … [G]ive us billionaires an extra hundred years and you’ll know what … wealth disparity looks like.
A video of Parker’s comments can be found here.