Facebook is ‘ripping apart the social fabric’

Conversation starter: The average person spends 135 minutes on social media per day (Statista).

Is Facebook destroying society? A former executive has revealed he feels “tremendous guilt” for helping to build the site — he claims it is “eroding the core foundations” of how we behave.

Facebook’s official mission statement is to “bring the world closer together”. But now it is being suggested that it does the opposite.

Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook vice president of user growth, slammed the site for “ripping apart the social fabric”. He claimed the way users are encouraged to compete for “likes” is creating a society with “no cooperation”.

Palihapitiya has himself stopped using the network and has even banned his children from it too.

Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, claims the social network was intentionally designed to exploit “vulnerability” in human psychology.

Soon Facebook may have to deal with more than just criticism. Today a UK watchdog advised the British government to prosecute social media companies which fail to remove extreme content.

This new threat adds to other controversies that have rocked the company this year. In October it admitted that 126 million American users were exposed to Russian propaganda interfering with the US election.

In spite of all this Facebook continues grow: by September this year it had connected more than two billion users across the globe.

But is Facebook really ripping society apart?

Anti-social network

Of course, say some. The constant pressure to gain “likes” and virtual popularity stops people forming genuine personal relationships in the real world. What is more, the pressure to conform pushes users into echo chambers where any difference of opinion is shut down.

What nonsense, others respond. We must not forget the basic good that Facebook does. It brings people together from across the world who would otherwise never meet. It reconnects old friends who have lost touch. And it lets people band together for common causes. It cannot be destroying society when it creates so many bonds.

You Decide

  1. Does social media do more harm than good?

Activities

  1. Imagine you had to design a brand new social network website from scratch. What special features would it have? How would users interact with each other? Would it be very different from Facebook, or similar?

Some People Say...

“Everyone hates Facebook, and everyone is on it.”

Bo Burnham

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Chamath Palihapitiya joined Facebook when it was just over a year old. When he left in 2011 it had less than a billion users. It now has over two billion.
What do we not know?
Whether Facebook’s user base will continue to grow. In 2014 researchers predicted that Facebook would lose 80% of all its users by 2017. In fact, it now has millions more users.

Word Watch

UK watchdog
The Committee on Standards in Public Life.
126 million
With some 250,000 million people eligible to vote in America, that means half of the electorate may have seen Russian propaganda.
Two billion users
There are 7.6 billion people in the world.
Echo chambers
A situation in which beliefs are reinforced by being repeatedly expressed. Facebook’s news feed promotes content similar to that which user’s have already liked. So if someone likes a post which expresses a particular view, they are likely to see similar posts.

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