Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and the CEO of venture capital firm Social Capital, said in a November interview that social media is damaging society and voiced concerns about its impact on his own children.
In the November interview at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Palihapitiya, also a co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, said that he feels “tremendous guilt” for helping build Facebook into the behemoth it is today. Palihapitiya joined the company in 2007 as its vice president for user growth, three years after it was founded in a Harvard dorm room by Mark Zuckerberg.
"I think we all knew in the back of our minds, even though we feigned this whole line of 'unintended consqeuences,' I think in the back recesses of our minds, something bad could happen," Palihapitiya said. "It literally is at a point now we've created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is literally where we are. I would encourage all of you how to internalize this is - if you feed the beast, the beast will destroy you."
Palihapitiya added that our use of social media is becoming dangerous for society:
"The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. 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."
He said that he rarely, if ever uses Facebook, posting maybe twice in seven years, something that has caused "huge problems" in his own social circles. He also added he would not let his own children use it.
Backlash becoming more common
Palihapitiya is just the latest former Facebook employee to come out and express concern for how the company has changed the social fabric of how society operates.
Last month, Sean Parker, who co-founded the music streaming service Napster before joining Facebook as its president, said he was concerned about what it is doing to children's brains.
"I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, 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," Parker said in an interview with Axios' Mike Allen. "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
Another former Facebook employee and the creator of the "like" button, engineer Justin Rosenstein, said he thinks his invention is a contributor to “time poorly spent."
Snap — the company that owns Snaphat — also recently criticized social media, with its CEO Evan Spiegel recently saying social media has fueled the rise of "fake news."
Both Parker and Palihapitiya have moved into areas where they are trying to do more social good than just building another social network. Parker is now the founder and chair of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Palihapitiya's Social Capital focuses on funding companies in sectors such as healthcare and education, in addition to areas like rocket technology and 3-D printing.
More harm than good?
The comments come after a time of increased backlash towards companies in Silicon Valley. Facebook in particular, has come under scrutiny for the role it played during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In September, Facebook reported that Russian operatives spent $100,000 in fraudulent ad spending by organizations with ties to the Russian government. Separately, Twitter and Google have also uncovered ad spending by Russian operatives.
The Russian government and some of the players linked have since denied the allegations.
In spite of this, as well as comments he made after the 2016 election saying he thought it was "a pretty crazy idea" that Facebook was responsible for infleuncing the election's results, Zuckerberg has asked for "forgiveness" for ways his "work was used to divide people."
He also updated Facebook's mission statement this past summer, saying the company's new purpose is "to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together."