• Patrick McAndrew

The Society Destroyer: A New Archenemy

I stumbled upon an article titled, “Facebook is ‘Ripping Apart’ Society, Former Executive Warns.”  I ironically saw this post on Facebook after a friend had posted it.

“Ripping apart society.”  That sounds rather harsh, doesn’t it?  A bit extreme?  A tad over-the-top?  This goes quite against Facebook’s mission statement:

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

I would say that Facebook fulfills its mission statement for the most part.  I’ve been able to keep in touch with friends from years past because of Facebook.  I’ve been able to keep up with peoples’ lives and see what exciting things they’re up to, so that next time I see them I can say, “Yeah!  I saw that on Facebook!”

Although I think this cancels out some necessaries in face-to-face interaction, Facebook has done a good job at keeping people digitally connected.  One of my favorite features is creating events.  It’s an easy way to plan and invite people to a party or to find out about a social outing as well.  It’s a great way to share pictures and videos, especially if one cannot be there physically to experience a special event in real time.  Facebook is also a good channel to announce blog posts, such as the lovely one you are reading right now! Ta-da!

So, Facebook is “ripping apart” society? “Why, that’s preposterous!  Ludicrous!  Whoever said such frivolous things must be a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins!  Perhaps an old-timer with one foot in the grave who can’t keep up with the times! Oh, how adorable that is!  Har-har-har!”

Wait just a minute there, mister eager McBeaver, for it wasn’t just anyone making these claims.  It was none other than venture capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya.  And no, I did not just sneeze.  He was the former head of user growth for Facebook who now “feels tremendous guilt over Facebook’s divisive role in society.”  Essentially, Facebook is a destroyer, as our favorite fitness enthusiast would say.

If the former head of user growth is making these claims, that gives me reason to believe they are likely true.  He quotes, “Even though we feigned this whole line of, ‘There probably aren’t any really bad unintended consequences,’ I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of our minds, we kind of knew something bad could happen.  We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.  That is truly where we are.”

Palihapitiya makes some very important points.  Smartphones and social media have become staples in a global culture.  We always have them.  We always reference them.  We are always on them.  Anxiety levels rise if we are not within arms reach of our phones.  Empathy indicators are at an all-time low, down 40% in the last ten years.  And there is even a scientific word for the irrational fear of being without your phone: nomophobia.

Because of this, society is operating in an entirely new way from years past.  Although Facebook and smartphones provide great conveniences that we didn’t previously have, their damage can be greater than their reward.  Palihapitiya states, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works.  No civil discourse, no cooperation, but misinformation, mistruth.

Misinformation and mistruth can be seen every day.  Because social media and the Internet is a wasteland of peoples’ biased, subjective opinions, it becomes immensely difficult to parse out the facts from the fiction.  People are going to believe what they want to believe, even if it may not be true.  As much as Facebook as the ability to connect us, it has just as much power to divide us due to the spread of misinformation and the never-ending cycle of comparison that we make between our lives and those of our Facebook “friends.”

Everything must be taken in moderation.  If we ate cookies as often as we spend time on our smartphones, we would be dead.  I love cookies more than anyone, but moderation is key.  A.S. King, an American writer, has this great quote.  She says,

“Humans want to conquer everyone they can, and buy everything they see.  I think this is because humans have forgotten how to be happy.  It’s not their fault – it’s not easy figuring out how to be happy in these days of anything-but-moderation.”

Moderation is key.  Balance is key.  We can still enjoy all the benefits of Facebook, other social media, and all the wonderful things our smartphones offer.  But these things can destroy us as well if we let them.

Do you find that you have a healthy balance with technology and social media?  Do you find yourself constantly connected and on your phone?  Or are you able to separate yourself from all the noise?  Comment below!

Your friend,


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