Facebook's co-founder blasts social media: "It literally changes your relationship with society"

One of Facebook's founders says that social media may have a negative impact on the human brain

Published November 9, 2017 9:29AM (EST)


Sean Parker, one of the co-founders of Facebook, says he thinks social media is damaging the health of humans' brains.

"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," Parker told an audience at an Axios event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, regarding cancer studies.

He said that Facebook and its successors were deliberately designed to consume as much time and attention as possible from their users. The result was that they created "a social-validation feedback loop . . . exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."

He added, "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."

Parker's observation about Facebook potentially being used to psychologically exploit its users has an interesting resonance in 2017. After all, Facebook admitted last month that roughly 10 million of its users had seen divisive political advertisements sponsored by Russia.

"The 2016 U.S. election was the first where evidence has been widely reported that foreign actors sought to exploit the internet to influence voter behavior. We understand more about how our service was abused and we will continue to investigate to learn all we can," Facebook said in a statement at the time.

Coincidentally, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently put a more positive spin on the role that technology broadly is having on our day-to-day lives.

"A lot of people focus on whether technology creates or destroys jobs. I've seen both this year — improving tech has created more jobs in some industries and in others it has eliminated jobs," Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. "But perhaps the more common dynamic I've seen is that the number of jobs stays about the same, but in order to operate the increasingly advanced technology, people need more training and therefore get more pay."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Sean Parker Technology