Social Media Users Beware: “You Are Being Programmed”

Social Media Users Beware: “You Are Being Programmed”

Do you feel the need to repeatedly check your social media accounts? Does your life revolve around social media? Do you rely on it for all the latest news and facts? Have you published personal details online hoping that you will gain comments and likes? Do you look to social media for happiness? If you answered yes to any of these questions you are not alone. According to BBC News, two former Facebook employees recently spoke about the dangers of social media and how these cites were created to brainwash followers.

Chamath Palihapitiya and Sean Parker speak out

Last month, Facebook’s former vice president for user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, spoke for the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He expressed his feelings of “tremendous guilt” for helping the company attract over two billion users. His comments echoed remarks made by Sean Parker, one of the early pioneers of Facebook. Sean Parker said that Facebook provided “a dopamine hit and a social validation feedback loop, that exploited a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Sean Parker
Sean Parker |PC: JD Lasica/Flickr

Chamath Palihapitiya referenced two Facebook posts to prove his point. The first was in October when around 10 million people in the U.S. saw Facebook adverts from Russia before and after the U.S. presidential election. According to the post, “most adverts focused on ‘divisive social and political messages’ on issues like immigration and gun rights.’”

“There was no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth and it’s not just an American problem, it’s not just about Russian ads,” explained Palihapitiya. “This is a global problem.”

In his second example, Palihapitiya referenced a hoax circulating on WhatsApp. The post was about an India village and warned parents of child kidnappings which led to the lynching of several people.

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“You don’t realize it, but you are being programmed.”

Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitya | PC: Wikimedia Commons

“We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” Palihapitiya told the audience. He advised everyone to take a long break from social media as its effects are short-term. “We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short-term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up. We conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is, is fake, a brittle popularity that’s short-term and leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it.” His solution to the problem is to avoid all social media sites and that is exactly what he has done.  “You don’t realize it, but you are being programmed.”

The history of Facebook

PC: Wikipedia

While studying psychology at Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg invented the site as a way for students to connect online. As a computer programmer, he had already created many other websites including Coursematch and Facemash. In February 2004, “The Facebook”, as it was then known launched. Within 24 hours, 1,200 Harvard students had joined and after one month, over half the student body had a profile.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg | PC: Wikimedia Commons

In September of that same year, Divya Narendra, and brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss accused Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea for their social-networking site, ConnectU. The four had been working on the site when they were all students at Harvard. However, the case was later dismissed in March of 2007.