In a surprisingly candid interview yesterday, Sean Parker (shown), a co-founder of Facebook and the company’s first president, validated the claims of many critics that the social media giant employs predatory and psychologically manipulative practices.
During an interview with the Internet-based media company Axios, Parker turned the Q&A into a confession, of sorts, sounding somewhat regretful that he had helped open a toxic and socially disruptive Pandora’s Box.
He recounts his early smugness in encounters with people who vowed not to get caught up in and enslaved by social media. "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,'” he told Axios. “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.'" (Article continues below the following video.)
“God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying,” Parker continued in the interview, “because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and ... 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."
God may be the only One who really “knows” the full extent of the harm — physical, moral, psychological, intellectual, and social — that Facebook and the other social media titans are causing, but it is not difficult for the observant layman to see that significant damage is being done, not only to children but to adults and to society at large. Then there is the important political manipulation and damage to our essential institutions effected when the "progressives" running Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other tech behemoths throw their weight behind liberal-left politicians and shape fake news to help their causes and candidates. We return to that topic below, but first, here are some additional quotes from Sean Parker’s Axios interview:
• "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?'"
• "And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone ‘liked’ or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more ‘likes’ and comments."
• "It's 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."
• "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."
By the time Parker left the stage, reports an accompanying Axios article, “he jokingly said [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg will probably block his account after reading this.”
Parker resigned as president of Facebook in 2005 following his arrest on cocaine possession charges. But don’t weep for him; by that time he was already a Facebook billionaire, and he has gone on to found, and/or invest in, a number of other lucrative tech industry ventures. Forbes put his net worth at $2.4 billion in 2016. He has joined the Who’s Who of philanthropy by putting hundreds of millions of dollars into his own Parker Foundation, and donating hundreds of millions more to the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University, and the Sean N. Parker Autoimmune Research Laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco.
Parker’s admissions about Facebook’s less-than-ethical social media practices will not surprise those familiar with the tech giant’s sordid history. Among other things, Facebook entered into a partnership last year with leftist “fact checkers” at Snopes, ABC News, and the Poynter Institute to censor from Facebook’s News Feed what they describe as “fake news” and “hoaxes.” As Selwyn Duke reported for The New American (see here and here), former Facebook employees have admitted that the company blatantly tilted its news search engines against conservative sources and against coverage of popular topics of concern to political conservatives.
Photo of Sean Parker: screen-grab from Axios interview