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Chamath Palihapitiya, one of the early Facebook software engineers tasked a year after its founding with growing Facebook’s user base, warns that Facebook, in which he claims he has only posted on his own account less than 10 times in seven years, and other social media platforms are destroying how society works. Palihapitiya cautions that the dopamine effect of instant gratification with receiving likes encourages addiction to Facebook and other platforms. By the way, please “Like” this post because I need to know you like me … you really like me.
Palihapitiya also warns that bad actors can use social media to manipulate large swaths of people to do regrettable and terrible things. In addition to the example that he cites in the video above, it’s clear that he’s absolutely correct given the teens and pre-teens who have been badgered and bullied on Facebook and other sites who have sadly taken their own lives – such is the value placed on acceptance and social media friendship which passes for real friendship. Psychologists and researchers, as Palihapitiya as, have also studied and expressed concern about the addictive aspects of social media and the negative consequences of replacing face-to-face human interaction.
Given some of the recent controversies in how the management teams of Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube screen and censor what they deem as offensive or abusive material, it should also be evident that the stewards of such sites may be as easily manipulated as the users they regulate. Some have called for closer government oversight of social media platforms – as the FCC purportedly does with radio and television; while others see that as a potential Orwellian intrusion that’s rife for manipulation by those with even more pronounced political agendas than the social justice warriors at Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
As an old fuddy-duddy, the product of an era when children sought out the companionship of other kids to play outdoors and were encouraged to do so by parents who were tired of their offspring’s bickering. We didn’t have Xboxes or Playstations. We didn’t have smartphones or tablets and so weren’t distracted when they beeped, chimed, or alerted us when someone had responded to our latest Facebook post. We pretended to be knights or battling WWII soldiers, or Errol Flynn brandishing swords that were sticks used by builders to plot out residential lots. We played in houses being constructed when work crews left them idle on weekends — walking through the unfinished framed walls of fresh pine lumber occasionally smearing sap on our jeans or shirts. We played “Spot,” which was essentially hide-and-seek with a flashlight. We had water balloon fights. We jumped on the bus that took us to the community pool in summer and ogled at the hot-looking, bikini-clad woman lifeguard. We hiked around the nearby hills and climbed trees and built tree forts. And we played baseball and football and basketball on the street or at nearby parks. I know kids between the ages of six and 16 or 18 still do all that but my guess is to a lesser extent. But, for my own edification, how much are social media platforms consuming the hours of today’s kids … and adults?
Organized play demands collaboration and cooperation and kids out of boredom will agree to constantly change the game’s rules to make whatever the game is more interesting. In those activities, the social fabric is woven and stitched together and kids as they become adults rely on that foundational experience of collaboration, concession, cooperation and at least some measure of respect to get along. Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter seems to unravel that.
It seems to me that when those face-to-face interactive experiences are diminished or minimized then adults are more inept at communicating, collaborating or cooperating with one another. And thus, adults, and I am guilty of this as anyone is, retreat into comfortable silos of social groups that reinforce their own views and temperaments.
I’m sure many of you, out of frustration, out of exhaustion at having to deal with rude, crude, or demeaning comments, have taken a break from social media, or just to get away from the keyboard to circulate the blood in your legs and experience life in the real world … you know, the one out there. To replenish one’s spirit or soul, as it were. It’s a bit heretical of me to even discuss doing so here on Ricochet, given the site’s constant need to boost subscribers but out of curiosity, do you feel you are doing enough to regulate your children’s time (if you have children at home) on social media or your own? Would you be a better person, a more thoughtful and engaging person if you didn’t spend so much time on social media? Or would you feel that you are missing out on so much of what’s going on and feel isolated and disconnected from society and the world if you cut back on your time on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites?
I don’t have any easy answers. I’m as captivated as everyone else. I realize there are far better things I could be doing with my time. But I did feel compelled to bring this up and share it on a social media site. Hi, my name’s Brian and I may have an addiction.