Last week, the former president of Facebook, Sean Parker publicly claimed that Facebook exploits a vulnerability in human in human psychology. Parker also admitted that Facebook was designed to give its users a “dopamine hit every once in a while,” and that the creators knew they were exploiting a human vulnerability. But are Parker’s claims accurate? Psychologists give their take on this highly-intriguing social media theory.
Lynn Zakeri, LCSW
“I work with a lot of ages, but [Facebook’s] ‘like’ response impacts everyone,” said Zakeri. “Younger kids track the views of their live posts and the ‘likes’ on their insta-posts. Older teens check to see who watches their snap stories. Adults feel validated by the ‘likes’ on their new profile or the number of birthday wishes they receive.” A clinical therapist in the Chicago area, Zakeri also added, “These all give us good feelings. Sadly, the feelings are fleeting. They last about a second longer than it takes the person to click the ‘like’ button. But it keeps us checking and coming back for more. We all want to feel like we impact others, like we have an effect on others, and we certainly want validation that we matter.”
Kryss Shane, BS, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW
Kryss Shane is an LMSW and a social media consultant who has an interesting take on Parker’s comments. “Facebook and all forms of social media are largely based on the way a person uses it,” said Shane. “While some claim that it exploits people, others find new connections and stronger friendships through the use of social media. It is unfair to categorize any one source as exploitation when it is up to the individual to decide what to post and who has access to read it.”
Dr. Billie Blair, the President/CEO of Change Strategists
Dr. Billie Blair, the President/CEO of Change Strategists believes Parkers is telling the truth. “Sean Parker is correct – Facebook preys on individuals’ feelings of inadequacy/vulnerability,” said Blair. “Facebook members see others talk about their lives in glowing (and exaggerated) terms. They experience an initial reaction of despondency then a protective decision to show their lives with the same false ‘glow.’ Perhaps the company’s name should be changed to ‘FakeBook’ since so little that is contained on the site are accurate depictions.”
Commenting on Facebook’s potential effects on people’s brain chemistry or mental health, Dr. Blair said, “Both long-term and short-term effects on brain chemistry are unknown. Once the practice of ‘fictionalizing’ has been established, I’d say the results/effects on mental state aren’t much different from that of writing novels, being in politics, and other similar opportunities where fiction is the coin of the realm.”
What do you think about Parker’s claims? Let us know in the comments section below!