Social media has not been a good friend to us. Here are transcripts with insightful quotes on how social media are exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.
In the video, there are quotes by Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya, both were former-executives at Facebook. I made a transcription of the full video, to make their quotes and insights searchable.
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: “okay. You will be”.
And then they would say: “No. No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence and I value intimacy”
And I would say: “Well, you’re a conscientious objector, that’s okay. You don’t have to participate but we’ll get you eventually”.
I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying. The unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or two billion people is that 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.
If the thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, to really understand it, that thought process was all about “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”
That means that:
- we need to 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 you know more likes and comments.
This is a social-validation feedback loop. It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with: you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.
The inventors, creators (it’s me, it’s Mark Zuckerberg, it’s Kevin Systrom from Instagram, it’s all of these people) understood this consciously and we did it anyway.
That culture is missing here, so part of what we’re trying to do to achieve those goals is to take really big audacious points of view on the world and then train ourselves to be patient, and it’s really really hard.
The entire society is set up to not be patient anymore.
Q: I’m hearing a conflict with this “fail-fast and learn” mentality, where if you’re taking a deep and big bet, you want it to be the right one. How do you know when that’s true?
I think that that “fail-fast” approach works in consumer internet businesses, but I don’t think it works for anything that really matters, basically. Consumer internet businesses are about exploiting psychology and that is one where you want to fail fast because people aren’t predictable and so we want to psychologically figure out how to manipulate you as fast as possible and then give you back that dopamine hit.
We did that brilliantly at Facebook. Instagram has done it. WhatsApp has done it. Snapchat has done it. Twitter has done it, WeChat has done it. So, there are great examples of “failing fast” as the right path to exploiting the psychology of mass populations of people.
Q: I want to bring us back to the point that you were making about exploiting consumer behavior in a consumer internet business. You said that this is a time for soul-searching in social media businesses, and you were part of building the largest one. What soul-searching are you doing right now on that?
I feel tremendous guilt.
Even though we feigned this whole line of “there probably aren’t any really bad unintended consequences”; in the back deep recesses of our mind, we kind of knew something bad could happen, but I think the way we defined it was not like this.
It literally is a point now, where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is truly where we are.
I would encourage all of you as the future leaders of the world to really internalize how important this is. If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you. If you push back on it, we have a chance to control it and rein it in.
It is a point in time where 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, miss truth.
And it’s not an American problem, this is not about Russian ads.
This is a global problem, so we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.
It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.
And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is that I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years. It’s created huge tension with my friends, huge tensions in my social circles.
If you look at my Facebook feed, I posted less than ten times in seven years. And it’s weird, I guess I just innately didn’t want to get programmed and so I just tuned it out. But I didn’t confront it, and now to see what’s happening it really bums me up.
There were these examples where there was a hoax in WhatsApp. In a village in India, people were afraid that their kids were going to get kidnapped. Then there were these lynchings that happened as a result where people were like vigilante running around. They think they found the person and they … seriously?
That’s what we’re dealing with.
Imagine when you take that to the extreme, bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really really bad state of affairs and we compound the problem, right?
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 inflate it with the 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 then it forces you into this vicious cycle where you’re like “what’s the next thing I need to do now?” because I need it back.
Think about that, compounded by two billion people and then think about how people react then to the perceptions of others. It’s really really bad.
Q: It sounds like you’re taking deep personal responsibility in being a part of it?
Look, I did a great job there and I think that business overwhelmingly does positive good in the world.
Where I have decided to spend my time is to take the capital that they rewarded me with and now focus on the structural changes that I can control.
I can control my decisions which is “I don’t use this shit”. I can control my kids’ decision which is “they’re not allowed to use this shit”. And then I can go focus on diabetes and education and climate change.
That’s what I can do, but everybody else has to soul-search a little bit more about what you’re willing to do because your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed.
It was unintentional, but now you got to decide how much you’re willing to give up; how much of your intellectual independence.
And don’t think “oh yeah, not me. I’m a genius, I’m at Stanford”. You’re probably the most likely to fall for it because you were check boxing your whole goddamn life. no offense, guys.
Slow and steady against hard problems. Start by turning off your social apps and giving your brain a break. Then you will at least be a little bit more motivated to not be motivated by what everybody else thinks about you.
Do you know what I’m saying?
Think about how all this stuff plays together. How does trying to get posting your fucking waffles online relate to me starting a business and accumulating capital?
This is wiring your brain for super fast feedback.
It’s the same brain you’re using to build a company.
Don’t think they’re not the same.
Do you know what I’m saying? No? Yes, right?
You have one brain!
So, you’re training your brain here, whether you think it or not. Whether you know it or not. Whether you acknowledge or not.
Acknowledge that these things, where you’re spending hours a day, are rewiring your psychology and physiology in a way that now you have to use to go and figure out how to be productive in the commercial world.
So, if you don’t change this, you are going to get the same behaviors over here. Change this. There’s a reason why Steve Jobs was anti-social media. I am telling you I’m not on these apps.
I’m not him by any stretch of the imagination, but I am proactively trying to rewire my brain chemistry to not be short-term focused. I’m telling you they’re linked.