In the most ironic story of the day, and perhaps of 2017, a former Facebook executive whose job it was to literally get the world hooked on the “internet crack” that is social media, is now calling on people to take a “hard break” from a service which he believes is “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” Speaking to a group of students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said that he feels “tremendous guilt” for his role in building the social media giant and warned that “if you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you…” (you can view the relevant portion of the interview here).
“I feel tremendous guilt.”
“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 you have a chance to control it and reign it in.”
“There is a point in time when people need a hard break from some of these tools.”
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”
“So, we’re 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. You know, my solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I ahven’t for years. It’s created huge tension with my friends. Huge tensions in my social circles.”
As CNBC notes, Palihapitiya went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” As noted above, Palihapitiya went on to say that he’s only posted to Facebook a handful of times in the past 7 years and said that his children “aren’t allowed to use that s**t.”
Palihapitiya went on to criticize not only Facebook, but Silicon Valley’s entire system of venture capital funding saying that investors pump money into “s**tty, useless, idiotic companies,” rather than addressing real problems. Palihapitiya currently runs his own VC firm, Social Capital, which focuses on funding companies in sectors like healthcare and education.
Finally, proving that he’s just the gift that keeps on giving, Palihapitiya also took a shot at individual tech investors saying they’ve achieved their power more through luck than skill. “Everybody’s bulls**tting,” he said. “If you’re in a seat, and you have good deal flow, and you have precious capital, and there’s a massive tailwind of technological change … Over time you get one of the 20 [companies that become successful] and you look like a genius. And nobody wants to admit that but that’s the f**king truth.”
Of course, not everyone is buying Palihapitiya’s holier-than-thou speech and has called on the tech billionaire to put his money where his mouth is…
i would like to see these people put their (facebook-made) money where their mouths are – more powerful than a verbal condemnation would be giving up facebook shares or the $ $ $ they’ve made from facebook https://t.co/FspOtMe80P pic.twitter.com/xcAwjfocq9
— maya kosoff (@mekosoff) December 11, 2017
For those interested, here is the full interview with Palihapitiya: