Ex-Facebook President Sean Parker: Network ‘Exploiting’ Human Psychology

MENLO PARK (CBS SF) – Facebook’s first president Sean Parker leveled criticism at the social network he once headed, saying how the network was designed to be addictive and is concerned about its effect on children.

Speaking to the news site Axios at an event Wednesday, Parker recalled the early days of the network when he encountered skeptics of 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.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be,'” Parker said.

Parker described Facebook as a “social-validation feedback loop” and “exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“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,” he said.

The prominent Silicon Valley investor and philanthropist also recalled the thought process in building the social network, saying it was all about “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”

Parker said Facebook’s likes and comments were “a little dopamine hit,” which encourages people to contribute more content to the site.

Parker’s comments echo a growing concern among some in Silicon Valley about the addictive nature of mobile apps and social media.

Tristan Harris, a former Google engineer, told “60 Minutes” earlier this year that companies have a “whole playbook of techniques” to keep people on their apps as long as possible.

“They want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money,” Harris told the newsmagazine in April.

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