Former Exec Slams Facebook for 'Destroying Society'

John Lister's picture

A former Facebook executive says the site is responsible for "ripping apart the social fabric of how society works." Chamath Palihapitiya says the problem isn't restricted to the US.

Speaking at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Palihapitiya said he felt "tremendous guilt" about his role as Facebook's vice president of user growth. Talking about the way Facebook tried to get users to stick around on the site, he echoed the comments of former colleagues in likening it to psychological manipulation.

Social Media Works Like Drug

He referred to "dopamine-driven feedback loops", referring to the way users get a small burst of pleasure from seeing a new post or getting a notification of a "like" on their content, then come back to the site in the hope of repeating that pleasure. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that acts as something of a reward system and is often associated with addictions.

Palihapitiya said the problem is that the emphasis on these feedback loops takes priority over Facebook being a genuinely useful tool for fostering civil discussion and sharing accurate information.

He noted how this can lead to false but eye-catching and provocative 'information' being more likely to get shared and spread, with the problem occurring this way even before organizations start deliberately trying to manipulate the news people see.

Tech Investment Under Fire

He said he no longer uses Facebook at all, claiming that it is "eroding the core foundation of how people behave by and between each other." (Source:

Palihapitiya also aimed at the wider tech business community, particularly the way new companies get investment through venture capital. Typically, investors risk their money in the hope that their share of the business becomes valuable when it takes off. He said this approach meant investors were chasing quick profits, meaning companies that are more likely to benefit society in the long term struggle to get started. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you share Palihapitiya's views? Do sites like Facebook have benefits that outweigh their cultural negatives? Can any tech company or Internet site still improve society once it becomes a huge business?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Make no mistake - Facebook put in a lot of effort to implement previous psychological studies to make their site "sticky" and keep users coming back.

Because of the way the Internet works, we don't have a panel of judges to rule on what should and shouldn't be acceptable content online (like those websites that have far too many ads!) - though "what is acceptable" might change if net neutrality is broken. At any rate, tech companies like Facebook do whatever they can to push the limits in hopes of turning a profit, even if it means "destroying society."

Some may look at it this as technology progressing and society catching up with it - others not so much. I can remember a time when we used to call each other on the phone to discuss things - now it seems instant messaging has taken over. I have to agree, instant messaging is far more convenient than a phone call because I am often doing 10 things at once (but it also depends on the circumstances). Is this destroying society or is it just another way to communicate?