Chamath Palihapitiya is a venture capitalist who was instrumental in building up Facebook in its early years. In this recent interview at the Stanford Business School, he comes out hard against social media. He says he does not use it, and will not let his kids use it. The good stuff starts just past the 21:00 mark. (Careful — there’s a bit of profanity here, so it’s NSFW):
I feel tremendous guilt. … We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.
… If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you. … People need to hard break from some of these tools, and 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 — and it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem.
… It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other. And I don’t have a solution. My solution is that I just don’t use these tools anymore, and I haven’t for years.
He talks about a WhatsApp hoax that went through a rural region of India earlier this year, one that sent such panic through a part of society that innocent people were murdered. More:
Bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything you want. It’s a bad, bad state of affairs. And we compound the problem. We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up. And we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that’s short term and that leaves you even more, and admit it, vacant and empty before you did it. Because it forces you into this vicious cycle about what’s the next thing I need to do, because I need it back. And think about that compounded by two billion people.
… You don’t realize it but you are being programmed. It was unintentional, but now you’ve got to decide how much you want to give up.
He concludes by telling the audience not to think that they’re too smart to fall for what social media does to you, because they go to Stanford. You best-and-brightest are the most likely to fall for it, he said, “because you’re check-boxing your whole life.”
Powerful stuff. Thanks to the readers who forwarded this to me.