Former Facebook VP says social media is ripping society apart

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I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it’s a great way for me to engage with people, given that I work from home and my social interactions are largely limited to my cats and my kids. On the other, I feel that it’s allowed people to be awful to each other, without any of the recourse or feedback that would happen in face-to-face conversation. There’s no longer any sort of nuance to conversation – especially heated conversation – and everything seems to have devolved into some sort of us vs them stance.

I’m not the only one who seems to feel that social media can be quite a negative presence. Former vice president for user growth at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya, says he feels “tremendous guilt” over the social platform he helped propel.

“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops 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 Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

Palihapitiya cites an example where hoax messages on social media led to the lynching of seven innocent people.

“That’s what we’re dealing with, and imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”

He suggests people take a “hard break” from social media. He does, however, say that platforms like these are just tools – and it’s up to society how they use them. Unfortunately, most of society seem to be tools as well.

Last Updated: December 12, 2017

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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