Sean Parker, of Napster fame and an early investor in Facebook, says the founders of the social networking site knew they were creating something people would become addicted to, reports Axios. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said at an Axios event in Philadelphia, noting that he has become a “conscientious objector” on social media, even though he still maintains a presence on Twitter and Facebook. (He is currently the founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.)
Parker says the social networking site exploits human psychological vulnerabilities through a validation feedback loop that gets people to constantly post to get even more likes and comments. “It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” he said. “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.” In other words, using Facebook is like junk food: you get instant gratification when you post for likes and comments. It’s quick and easy but has little substance.
Parker says that the thought process when building Facebook was to figure out “how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” The comments are a little ironic given the billions Parker has made from being an early investor in Facebook. It’s not the first time a tech entrepreneur has disavowed something they’ve created or been involved with — Programmer Ethan Zuckerman famously penned an apology letter for unleashing pop-up ads into the world several years ago.
Public sentiment is also turning against Facebook, hit by issues surrounding fake news and Russian election posts that reached 126 million people. A recent deep dive by The Verge into technology companies found Facebook to be one of the most divisive. More people say they distrust it more than Amazon, Google, Apple, or Microsoft, though a majority of people said they would still care very much if Facebook went away. “The unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other,” Parker said.