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Facebook Businesses Social Networks

Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media is Ripping Apart Society (theverge.com) 405

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels "tremendous guilt" about the company he helped make. "I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works," he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a âoehard breakâ from social media. Palihapitiya's criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. "The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created are destroying how society works," he said, referring to online interactions driven by "hearts, likes, thumbs-up." "No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem -- this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem." Also read: Sean Parker Unloads on Facebook 'Exploiting' Human Psychology
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Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media is Ripping Apart Society

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  • He's right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:01PM (#55716301)
    He's exactly right.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DogDude ( 805747 )
      But to be fair, most of humanity simply isn't ready for the Internet. The Internet is still the Wild West, full of garbage, and most people are simply not smart or savvy enough to deal with it. Giving regular people exposure to the raw Internet was going to lead them to use it for porn and TV and tabloid quality information, regardless of what "services" exist. It's true that FaceTweetGram took advantage of the uneducated masses, but somebody else would've if they didn't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 )

      It's not Facebook.... Facebook is but one of the current tools being used and abused for this.

      Let's face it, the issue is cultural, not technological. We have long ago abandoned our founding principles of self reliance, personally looking out for your neighbors, tolerance, fairness and freedom. We now suffer from believing that equal outcome is the measure of fairness, where I count for more than everybody else and I am owed things like healthcare services or a college education without cost.

      This isn't th

      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        Word

      • Re:He's right. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JonnyCalcutta ( 524825 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @01:05PM (#55716817)

        There are founding principles? Of what? The world? Mankind? Facebook? Your house? Or (despite the summary saying this isn't a uniquely USian issue) are you just being pathetically parochial?

        I hate to say it because it just sounds like a bitch - but the view that 'other peoples opinions are the problem' IS THE PROBLEM!

      • Can't they just create a YouTube account, put their head into the microwave and cement it in [independent.co.uk]?

        With a little bit more effort, they could have succeeded. You know, all that work of cutting him out when all you really had to do is clog the tube and wait. Just think of the clicks and views that would've gotten!

        I know I would've clicked. But so... bah.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          That looks to be more like poor parenting, followed with poor schooling. I mean come on now, we knew back in the 1980's microwaves were dangerous. Playing with mercury on your skin was really bad. Eating paint chips wasn't going to help you get far in life either. But when you have a medium that promotes narcissism and attention seeking? Big shock that everyone with a mental deficiency, daddy/mommy issues/etc go out of their way to try and get some attention.

    • Does Google+ have the same problems with "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops"? Also, don't a lot of people get together over Facebook groups that would never have gotten together? It seems like the problems described sit on top of a new foundation of benefits that a lot of people don't even notice since they're so much a part of a new reality in social interaction.

      Relatives, people with common interests and concerns around the entire world are now able to fluidly share instant messages, pictures,

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:05PM (#55716329)

    I think the notion that social media is tearing apart the country ignores that, like soylent green, social media is people.

    The problem is not really social media. It's that more and more people are growing to be far more intolerant of diverse ideas. Social media just gives us a window into the wider picture how much of a problem that has become...

    We all know people that have grown far less tolerant and far more angry, I'm talking both left and right. That is a fundamental problem and I don't think it changes much if you rein in social media.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:14PM (#55716391)

      social media is people who are being emotionally manipulated by machine learning algorithms to get them to click on more ads, with absolutely no moral oversight in play

      there are no people making decisions, this is deliberately to avoid the question of "is it moral to do this?"

      • The click-inducing bots show people what they want to see. While I believe the majority of people are mature enough to see through it, enough get all out wound up via confirmation bias and conspiracy theories that they become extremists. Thus, we have more extremists, and they in turn create noise and confusion such that few know what's really going on because it takes time and effort to sort out messes and verify stuff.

        I wonder how this will play out in places like China that try to micromanage social medi

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:19PM (#55716429)
      You realize we just are coming off having a black president for the last 8 years, and damn near elected a female to follow up, right Chicken Little? It's not that we're becoming intolerant. It's that the assholes who have always been a part of society are now using the internet to organize and vocalize.
      • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:33PM (#55716571)

        Also known as the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [penny-arcade.com].

        • And the key ingredient indicated in that cartoon (as an Unreal Tournament junky in all it's incarnations back in the day) is anonymity (I still miss that announcer: MMMMMonster Kill!). We will probably have to take anonymity away from the internet at some point if it is to mature as a feature of society (much like we had to add license plates, turn signals and seat belts to cars for that technology to mature). It is sad but just a truth of the human condition.

      • Mod parent up. Back in the day, if you were particularly bigoted, you tended to keep your mouth shut because even in your little bubble, there were very few like you. And no matter what the average slashdotter likes to believe, most people prefer not to be alone even if it means they can't share their theories on why women are so inferior.

        Then along comes the internet. All of a sudden, not only are you not alone, but time and effort has gone into creating safe online spaces for you. Not only can you gab to your hearts content about The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, there's thousands of you to do it with!

        So we've spent the last two decades knitting together every single little niche group into their own global enclaves, which is great when it brings together fans of an obscure anime, less so when hordes of fascist assholes start using their newfound power.
        • by IMightB ( 533307 )

          Minme for President!

    • by ilguido ( 1704434 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:23PM (#55716467)

      That is a fundamental problem and I don't think it changes much if you rein in social media.

      In my opinion there is a problem with social media. In real life, it is difficult to find a place (workplace, schoolroom, bus stop) where everybody thinks the same: you have to compare your ideas. In social media you can easily choose to talk only to similarly minded people and so you lose the ability to confront different ideas. All these snowflakes are children born from the marriage between political correctness and social media.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:47PM (#55716687) Journal

        I don't know that its the echo chamber so much as the narrowness of focus. When we interact online we don't know much if anything about the rest of the 'person' only that they agree or disagree with us.

        That is different than in 'real life' where usually we see more of each others lives. You see you coworker also drives a .... you see photos of his or her children on their desks doing similar activities you do with your own, you take part in conversations on other subjects where you do agree.

        Basically you learn to 'respect' them. When you arrive at a topic you can't agree on, you loose the assumption of hostility. You already have accepted the premise hey this a reasonably individual, who makes the same judgements and reaches the same conclusions I do much of the time. We just differ here.

        Online is more like, he disagrees with me, it must be malice or abject stupidity because what else could explain it? Without that personal context its hard for a lot of people to imagine any other possibilities.

        • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @02:17PM (#55717549) Homepage

          Not to mention the dehumanizing effect of interacting with screen names. If I was talking to you in person, even if I disagreed with you, societal pressure would keep us civil for the most part. Interacting with screen names, though, I might feel freer to insult "DarkOx" simply because my brain sees you as just a flicker of characters on my screen and not a "real person." (Personally, I try never to talk to people online in a manner that I wouldn't talk to them in person, but I might be in the minority with that.)

      • Honestly, I think this is one of the strengths and weaknesses of the Internet, not just social media. The Internet makes it so that you can find individuals with similar interests world-wide. If you want to discuss the latest Star Wars movie but nobody around you cares about Star Wars, you can pop into a Star Wars forum and be surrounded by Star Wars fans from all over the world. The flip side, though, is that you can go to a forum where everyone agrees with you politically and never be exposed to differing

    • Without echo chambers online, it never would have gotten so bad. People can stop interacting with those that don't agree and start to believe they are the only or majority opinion.

    • I think the notion that social media is tearing apart the country ignores that, like soylent green, social media is people.

      For a sufficiently broad definition of 'people', that's true. It's pretty unlikely that a random person that I meet in the streets will be a marketing person (unless they identify as such) or a representative of a foreign power attempting to influence my opinions on political topics. It's also unlikely that they'll have access to a profile of me that includes the topics of news articles that I read, the people whose opinions I follow, my address, a subset of my purchasing history, and so on. This is in d

    • We all know people that have grown far less tolerant and far more angry, I'm talking both left and right

      No we are just going back to the basics. Human emotional response evolved to handle extended family level social units. Stoneage cultures that survived long enough to be documented shows this clearly. The natural tendency of a human being encountering a stranger is hostility. When people can not be distinguished on appearance, we fragment language and use speech to identify friend or foe. The Old Testament mentions Ephramites pronounced "Shibboleth" as "Sibboleth", and were slain on the banks of river Jorda

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      We all know people that have grown far less tolerant and far more angry, I'm talking both left and right.

      I don't think we all know that! I see the younger generation being far *more* tolerant than the older generation. Do any of you have intolerant grandparents with whom you simply don't raise topics at Thanksgiving dinners? Think about how in the 60s how the older generation were intolerant of hippies. There's an interesting book by Stephen Pinker "The Better Angels of our Nature" where he calculates the numbers which show that human society has been becoming steadily more civilized and less violent on averag

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        No, the younger generation is just as intolerant as the old, they just are bigots/intolerant about other things. In the 60s, your parents were intolerant of gays, coloreds, and communists. Now their grandkids are intolerant of Christians, stay-at-home moms, and capitalism. Try going to Berkeley and carrying a Trump poster or simply reading out loud the Bible and learn all about their "tolerance". Just because YOU agree with their bigotry doesn't mean it's not bigotry...
    • Your Soylent Green analogy fails.

      Soylent Green is quiet and filling. Facebook is noisy and leaves you feeling kinda empty.

    • When I first found the Internet (way back in the early 90's), I was amazed by its power to bring together people with similar interests no matter what the distance. If I wanted to discuss Star Wars with someone, I didn't need to worry whether someone in my area that I happened to meet liked Star Wars. I could discuss it with a person next door just as easily as halfway around the world.

      The flip side of this is that political discussions can form echo chambers. I tend to be more liberal than some other peopl

  • He's right! (Score:5, Funny)

    by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:05PM (#55716335)

    Mod me up if you think he's right!

  • by OnTheEdge ( 136784 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:08PM (#55716365)
    Wouldn't the ability to process incoming information in a thoughtful, rational way trump the effects of social media's dark side?
    • The issue is cultural... We've raised a generation or two of self important, self indulgent, I'm owed a living people who have known no real hardship. Facebook and other platforms just carry the content that reflects the views they already hold, it didn't create them.

    • Wouldn't the ability to process incoming information in a thoughtful, rational way trump the effects of social media's dark side?

      No, it wouldn't necessarily trump those effects. It can be pretty easy to bypass those critical filters. Apologies in advance for Godwinning this discussion, but I'm sure many of the people who got behind the Nazis had the ability to "process incoming information in a thoughtful, rational way". Then the Nuremberg rallies mesmerized them, and the zeitgeist took hold in their psyches.

      Believing that one is proof against sociological / psychological influences, (social media, advertising, propagandistic plots

    • > Wouldn't the ability to process incoming information in a thoughtful, rational way trump the effects of social media's dark side?

      1. You're assuming most people can even process information in a critical, thoughtful way.

      2. That would involve actual work -- it is far easier to bitch about everything then to do anything about it. Much of social media is a knee-jerk reaction because people precisely DON'T want to think.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:16PM (#55716409) Homepage Journal

    Oh, wait. Now what?

  • Those of us over about 35 really don't give a stuff, we have real lives to lead and social media or discussion boards such as this are merely an entertaining diversion to while away the working day. For millenials it is their life, since most of them don't see to have a real one, at least not from a social point of view. A rather pitiable generation really.

    • by tk77 ( 1774336 )

      Unfortunately I know a bunch of people 35+ that can't get their faces out of Facebook. It gets annoying when trying to have a conversation with someone and they come over and shove their phone in your face to look at some pointless thing you don't care about, on Facebook. One of them even makes up excuses about how they can do their job plus keep up with whats happening on Facebook while at work (they can't even walk up or down a short flight of stairs without taking their face out of their phone.. smh).

    • For millenials it is their life, since most of them don't see to have a real one, at least not from a social point of view. A rather pitiable generation really.

      Assuming for the moment that your view of millennials is accurate, the question then becomes 'how did they get that way'? A whole generation of people doesn't just develop some critical flaw - it had to have been programmed in by the society in which they grew up. So rather than criticizing them, it might be better to ask ourselves about the things we did, and the things we failed to do, that set them up for a life of sucking on the (Fibre) Glass Teat that is the Internet.

  • Thats capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:20PM (#55716445)
    Social media does nothing but accentuate the worst of humanity. Like restaurants can make more money if they make crappy food that's bad for us and we eat it up, so does social media sensationalize *everything* to get more clicks.

    Hard not to blame capitalism. Until their are checks in balances in place to move in a way that is actually good for us, it's all a race into the toilet.
    • Hard not to blame capitalism. Until their are checks in balances in place to move in a way that is actually good for us, it's all a race into the toilet.

      It's also hard not to feel incredibly grateful when you compare it to heavily regulated countries.

    • Like restaurants can make more money if they make crappy food that's bad for us and we eat it up
      Wait, what? No, no no. You have it all wrong. Capitalism is not the problem, even in the analogy you provided. Did you miss the part where you can go to another restaurant if you don't like the one that serves crappy food? Capitalism is voluntary. Restaurant can choose to serve crappy food and you can choose to eat there - or take your business elsewhere.
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:26PM (#55716503)

    The thing about social media isn't so much the power it gives anyone to say anything...it's the fact that everyone is exposed to it 24 hours a day. At the same time, the algorithms used by these services put people further and further into ideological bubbles where they only hear the opinions they want to hear.

    For example, consider the Trump investigations. Whatever you think of them, I guarantee you that even if they find unequivocal, smoking-gun level, zero-bias evidence against him, his millions of fans will immediately brush it off as "fake news" because they've been convinced that only their opinions are correct...and we'll have a serious problem on our hands if any moves are made to force him out. That's why he's not worried...all he has to do is tell his fans that he's under attack and they will take to the streets.

    The other danger is depression...almost no one posts negative or mundane aspects of their lives unless they're looking for sympathy. If you're prone to depression, looking around and seeing everyone else having a grand time has to take a toll.

    • even if they find unequivocal, smoking-gun level, zero-bias evidence against him, his millions of fans will immediately brush it off as "fake news" because they've been convinced that only their opinions are correct...and we'll have a serious problem on our hands if any moves are made to force him out. That's why he's not worried...all he has to do is tell his fans that he's under attack and they will take to the streets.

      If you are correct, they could be in for a rude awakening.

    • "everyone is exposed to it 24 hours a day."

      No. That's not the case. People CHOOSE to be exposed to it, and they choose to buy into it.
      I used to be on Instagram, until a little over a year ago. I enjoyed it, there were some fun things about it. Then one day I realized I was like a chicken, peck peck pecking my phone all the time. And I quit, and was much happier for it. I don't use FB either.

      You can avoid these things, you don't have to pay attention to them. And if you do, you don't HAVE to like/subs

  • Forums did this 20+ years ago.

    Echo chamber? Sure!
    Amplifier? Of course.
    One guy says "This is the TRUTH" and half a million mindless parrots nod their heads and go "a-yup" and then spread that "truth" up and down the net.

    Seriously, we're social animals but obviously there's only so much social socializing that can go on at a given time.

    • by sootman ( 158191 )

      True. Now tell me how many people were on forums 20 years ago, and compare that to the one or two BILLION people that use Facebook.

  • by naubol ( 566278 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:54PM (#55716727)

    Can we reject the hypothesis that social media is merely revealing our differences and forcing us to deal with the results of a long process of slowly building stratification? I'd be interested to see if the sense of stratification grows over the long haul.

    In my youth, my southern Baptist grandfather didn't get a daily reminder of how awful I think his policies are, viz a viz homosexuality, and he didn't get a daily reminder that I am going to burn in hell. He went about his life hoping I was still going to church and thinking society was mostly like him, white and Christian. I got to forget the depressing xenophobia of rural regions in my urban, liberal enclave. Then Facebook came along and made it clear to both of us that there were many, many Americas full of people doing things I wish they weren't doing.

    My attitude is: let's give this some time. It's kinda bruising to keep being a butthole on the internet, maybe we'll work it out well enough that the culture wars become a little less ridiculous. I hear anecdotes that more and more teenagers are confidently (and often casually) uninterested in their parents' culture wars but instead adopting a political position more likely to tolerate diverse groups and less likely to tolerate political positions that disenfranchise others. While this may be quite dogmatic from a certain perspective, it could mean a future where people aren't particularly interested in fighting culture wars instead of fighting over political policies.

    I'd also question the idea that we're always susceptible to outrage. Does outrage media sell as well in multicultural societies that largely tolerate intra-group differences? Does it sell as well with gen Z? As an oft-maligned millennial, my experience is that the boomers feel outrage when politics aren't serving them, gen my generation is more likely to feel outraged when anyone is being excluded, and gen Z'ers can't wait for both of us to die off.

    I'm sure people blamed the newspaper for encouraging people not to like the monarchy.

    • Well said (I know its a boring thing to say, but I've got nothing to add)

    • Then Facebook came along and made it clear to both of us that there were many, many Americas full of people doing things I wish they weren't doing.

      This mentality is a big part of the problem. Everyone thinks they know better than everyone else how those other people should live their lives and they are all vying for the power to make everyone else think like they do. But there's a simple (if difficult) way out of that. Stop telling everyone else they're wrong and start listening to them. Feel free to provide an alternative viewpoint while being willing to accept theirs even if they aren't willing to listen to yours. It's not as immediately satisf

      • by naubol ( 566278 )
        I think you're right that we could all do a better job listening to each other. I think it's also important that we still attempt to have values, even as we recognize that they won't be shared by everyone. For me, the standard I try to live up to is to engage conversations in good faith.
  • This is precisely the reason why I quit Facebook permanently. The platform represents all that I dislike in society. Quitting Facebook was one of the best decisions that I ever made. Nothing good comes from it. It encourages us to compare ourselves negatively to others whom may have more money or more success. Facebook is psychologically damaging.
    • >This is precisely the reason why I quit Facebook permanently.

      Vanity pages, competing to have the most friends, and giving all your personal information to a giant corporate database. I'm not that vain, I prefer real friends over someone who agrees to be linked on my vanity page, and I don't care to give away information that will be used against me (even if the anticipated use is only targeted advertising).

      Still, I joined in the early days (under a pseudonym) because Classmates was pay-for-access and i

  • by NicknameUnavailable ( 4134147 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @12:56PM (#55716753)
    Facebook and similar companies are evil due to their spying on users, selling user data to governments and marketing agencies, their tactics of creating shadow profiles to track and monitor even people not on their networks, and censorship of topics based on what they themselves feel is right or wrong. The dopamine high people get posting is irrelevant because only the lowest of "people" can succumb to it, honestly it probably quells violence more than anything by satisfying their poor impulses temporarily and in an unfulfilling manner leading to depression. Granted, society has been driven by people controlling masses of people with poor impulse control for eons, but that doesn't mean destroying that aspect of society is remotely a bad thing. The other issues are vastly more damaging and honestly all these "ex" Facebook executives "speaking out" against the "dopamine high" they engineer around strikes me as a low energy distraction campaign from the real issues they cause.
  • One only needs to take a peek at Reddit to see just exactly what he's talking about. Makes Facebook look tame especially in the news on political subs.
    • On Facebook:
      I don't have to visit a political discussion to see close friends of times past cry about taxes when I know they're in a low tax bracket and possibly on welfare or see some guy who used to ask me to fix his computer for beer like monthly, ranting into the ether about how he doesn't need or want net neutrality.

      If I think they might be paid shills it's ok but it's bad when I see people I kinda like with heads full paid for opinions.

  • Facebook was so invested in because its potential to break down society was realized by its big investors. It wasn't a shot in the dark with their billions of dollars. It wasn't a surprise that social media would transform our society. They knew what it was to become and it profits them immensely.
    Why do they want to break down society? Because they want to increase the level of control they have. Instead of programming society on the scale of groups, they want to control every atom; every individual, and op

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @01:34PM (#55717097)

    The concept that everyone has a vote, and that every vote is equal falls apart when a) those voters are misinformed and when b) those votes are manipulated psychologically.

    Of course, being misinformed and psychologically manipulated is the very definition of competitive marketing.

    As such, combining marketing tactics with political campaigning tactics basically destroys democracy.

    Sure, the voters voted for it. And I guess by that definition it's democracy, but no more than a child who votes the way his father tells him to vote, or an employee the way his boss tells him to vote, or an american the way his russian facebook friends convinces him to vote.

    It's simply too easy to convince large swaths of voters of important misinformation.

    This is when democracy fails.

  • Counterpoint (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Monday December 11, 2017 @01:36PM (#55717115)
    Social media might inflame people's emotions. But it neutralizes their actions.

    The major revolutions of the 19th century happened because people had to physically gather in order to air their grievances, discuss their ideas, and design their plots. Once they had a crowd gathered together, it was literally a step away from marching out into the streets and taking to the barricades. The internet doesn't have that physical organizational power. Keyboard warriors fuming away at their desks are relatively harmless. Sure, you might get few lone kooks who shoot up a church. But the instant gratification of social media cannot sustain large scale organized action.

  • Perhaps you haven't heard, but Slashdot doesn't render some characters well.

    ... recommending people take a âoehard breakâ from social media...

  • it intensifies your personality.

    But...what if you're an a------e?

  • Time to watch this again: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • The real issue is not the social media, but the fact that ppl, like business executives, have ZERO responsibility. As such, they can be as destructive as they want.
    Look at /..
    We have trolls here that hide as AC. Cool. There is a need for ACs, but not like we have it.
    Instead, we could easily solve this issue by simply allowing ppl to block ACs that are at say 1 or 0 and below. The moderators would not be allowed to do this. In addition, we should have the ability to have VETTED digital keys to verify a

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