Is Social Media and Facebook Destroying Society?

A former Facebook executive has come forward with ‘tremendous guilt’ over the tools that he helped design for the social media giant. He feels remorse about how these tools are ripping apart the fabric of social life. His voice is the latest in many to start publically criticising the company, joining hundreds of others who believe Facebook is destroying our society.

No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation and mistruth

This is what Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth, said about Facebook at a Stanford Business School event in November of this year. Palihapitiya believes that the company is creating a global problem by eroding the core foundations of how people behave. He voices his opinion that Facebook is destroying society and aren’t taking steps to stop it.

His comments come not long after ex-founding president Sean Parker also criticised the way that Facebook exploits a flaw in human psychology by creating a ‘social-validation feedback loop.’ Both Parker and Palihapitiya have said that they are something of conscious objectors to the site. With neither of them now using it or allowing their children to either.

Think about how you use social media

Palihapitiya urges users of the site to do some serious soul searching and figure out their relationship with social media. He believes that people’s behaviors are being changed by Facebook without them even realizing it. He likens it to being programmed, to use social media in certain ways.

Facebook now has over one-billion active accounts. That’s roughly one-seventh of the world’s population. That is a vast number of people who are all seeing the same messages, acting in the same way. And what’s even more distressing, is, interacting in a way that is now seen as acceptable, think mob mentality!

Although more people than ever are using the social media giant, we seem to have forgotten that we are interacting with fellow human beings. Reports of cyberbullying have increased on the site, as well as reports of harassment or just general abuse. You wouldn’t do these things to people on the streets so why act like it online?

The Question is: Is Facebook really Destroying Society?

You may be reading this and thinking that it’s just the comments of disgruntled former employees. Or you may be reading this and have agreed with everything that Palihapitiya has said. Whatever your stance, it’s important to look at the facts surrounding Facebook from various studies.

Here are some details that are publically available:

  1. Users of Facebook can be more prone to depression or anxiety as they negatively compare their lives to those of others. People forget that Facebook is only one side of someone’s life and you don’t know the full story.
  2. The rise in cyber-bullying amongst teenagers is a high cause of depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from social life. In extreme cases, unfortunate victims have committed suicide.
  3. The exposure of women’s bodies on Facebook has pointed to a rise in eating disorders, particularly among young women.
  4. People base their self-worth on how many likes they get. That can also lead to depression if the imaginary quota is not met.

Whatever you think about Facebook, hopefully, some of these facts will have opened your eyes to the realities and help you to re-examine your relationship with the site.