Former Facebook exec says social media is "ripping apart the social fabric"

Chamath Palihapitiya
via YouTube

At a recent talk Chamath Palihapitiya said he "doesn't use that sh*t" and his kids aren't allowed to either.

Facebook's former vice president for user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, has spoken out against the insidious nature of social media. Speaking at Stanford Graduate School of Business in November, Palihapitiya did not mince his words when it came to criticizing the way Facebook and other social media sites hijack people's minds.

"I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works... The things that you rely on, the short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created, are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth."

Palihapitiya is not referring just to fake news and the Russian election post scandal. He's talking about social media in general, and the way in which it's affecting us as humans, altering our relationships with each others in frightening ways. It's making them less real. He describes a horrific situation in India, where "hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people." (via The Verge)

"You don’t realize it, but you are being programmed... but now you got to decide how much you’re willing to give up, how much of your intellectual independence."

Quartz reports Palihapitiya saying he "didn’t want to be programmed himself, emphasizing he 'doesn’t use this sh**' and his kids are not allowed to use 'this sh**' either — also recommending that everyone take a 'hard break' from social media."

It's always shocking to hear someone from the inside criticize social media with such intensity. Of course we heard similar statements from Steve Jobs years ago, when he said his kids weren't allowed to use iPads, but there was a tendency to write that off as Jobs' iconic quirkiness. Hearing it from former high-profile Facebook execs, however, triggers alarm bells -- first Sean Parker, an early investor in Facebook, saying earlier this fall that he's a 'conscientious objector' when it comes to social media, and now Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007.

The Verge points out the somewhat annoying trend of tech influencers lamenting their role in creating something negative, long after they've reaped the financial rewards of doing so. Several years ago, programmer Ethan Zuckerman apologized for creating pop-up ads. But it's hard to take these statements seriously, knowing their inventors are sitting safely on their millions. Palihapitiya, to his credit, now runs a venture capital firm called Social Capital, founded in 2011, that funds companies in healthcare and education sectors.

On the other hand, who could have foreseen the extent to which social media would dominate our lives? Even five years ago, a much smaller percentage of people had smartphones, fewer people are addicted to Snapchat and Instagram, and advertising wasn't so rampant on Facebook. Whether Palihapitiya is right when he says it's "ripping apart the social fabric," the fact is we are facing a serious problem and should take his advice about that hard break.

Tags: Apple Inc | iPhone | Kids | Technology

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