Facebook founder Sean Parker: “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”
Facebook’s founders knowingly created the site to exploit a “vulnerability in human psychology”, the social network’s founding president Sean Parker has admitted.
In a candid onslaught against the company that made him a billionaire, Parker talked about the understanding Facebook’s creators had about how the site manipulated its users:
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them […] was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’
“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.”
Speaking at an Axios event in Philadelphia, Parker showed regret about his attitude towards the site during his time in charge: “When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’
“And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say: ‘We’ll get you eventually.'”
In comments that strongly echo a recent Alphr interview with the inventor of the Facebook Like button – Justin Rosenstein – Parker admitted there is a gulf in the social network’s initial aims and the “unintended consequences” we are faced with today.
“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or two billion people.
“It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
When we spoke to Rosenstein, he talked about the way the Like button was designed to draw users towards certain mindsets:
“Humans are very malleable,” he said. “It’s like architecture. Architects will understand that [one] structure will cause people to flow while certain architectures will cause people to feel isolated. Others will cause people to come together. When you’re architecting software, you’re creating similar dynamics where you can result in people exhibiting different kinds of behaviours in their lives unconsciously.”
Sean Parker called Facebook’s cycle of encouraged Likes and comments a “social-validation feedback loop”, saying it was “exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Alphr reached out to Facebook but the company declined to comment.