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Sean Parker unloads on Facebook “exploiting” human psychology (axios.com)
603 points by jbuild 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 223 comments



For a big enough digital product, "hacking psychology" happens by default, more than intentionally.

First, it happens through competition. Good psychology hacks are things like tinder's fast paced swiping. Out of the squillions of dating apps, the one with a good hack won. I think Facebook used an identical hack for its first version, the hot-or-not version. Twitter's basic concept. Snapchat's. Lots of examples. All good "psych-hacks" that formed a core of successful products, arrived at through a sort of natural selection process. I suspect that almost any app which does not "solve a problem" leverages some hack instead.

Second, psych-hackers FB actually employ are not psychlogists. They're data scientists doing split tests. If this works like that, will you like more posts. A/B testing is really behavioural psychology expirementation, weaponized.

I think both of these are quasi-inevitable. But, constant optimization towards viral drek is not.

Where I think FB should be sheepish about is allowing the optimization to go on directionless. The only goals are quantitive. Quality is a foreign concept. No one has asked the question "what should FB be." The answer is simply "popular."

This isn't inevitable. Applied to businesses as a whole, you could replace "popular" with profitable. All businesses are under this imperative. But, that doesn't mean directionless. Businesses can strive to be all sorts of things in addition to (or preferebly as a path to) profitable. FB is itself an example of this.

What I want from FB (and Google) is a recognition that they are media companies, the biggest media companies. After that, they need to start dealing in quality. If you only optimize for quantity of reactions, shares and such while disregarding quality you become a shitty tabloid. No taste. No integrity. Just clickbait.

FB need to ask themselves "is the content (eg news) on FB of good quality?"


I'd dispute the notion that Facebook is optimizing directionlessly. It just turns out when your entire business model is "sell ads", then profitability and popularity become synonymous.

I'm very curious if you have a proposal for how to gauge content quality at scale. Back when I majored in journalism, "community engagement" was a massive topic. People wanted to create content that wasn't just "good" in a vacuum, but actually motivated society towards positive change. The theory went that if we reported on social issues in a certain way, perhaps we could influence society for the better. This was even the topic of my capstone project.

In the end, I became disillusioned. My observations contradicted the notion that content quality (news content in my case) matters in either a commercial or social sense when conducted at scale.

In my capstone project, some people volunteered to be interviewed about their volunteer work and their motivations. It was really interesting talking to all of them, but what I found in every case was that these people were motivated by life experiences, not media. I talked to an ex-con who had his life turned around by a books program, so he volunteered with the program when he got out. I also talked to a soccer mom who organized community events for her kids.

This was admittedly a qualitative study on personal anecdotes with a small sample set so it's not hard science. But the hypothesis that content quality is irrelevant at a mass scale seems to hold up in practice.

This also tangentially ties into a hypothesis I have on US presidential elections, which is that once it's down to two candidates, name recognition is all that matters. Every time (I'm aware of) that a president dominated the mass media of the time, he won the election. From FDR on radio to Kennedy on TV to Obama on social media and now Trump who rode on the public obsession with gossiping about every stupid thing he did or said.

Okay, rant over. I am legitimately interested, though, in any ideas for determining content quality at scale just because it seems like an interesting project.


I'm not sure, really. I assume that it would probably be mostly "theory-less" in practice. Google built ways of accessing web page quality. This seems somewhat related. pagerank? amoorthy's project seems to be citation-based. That sounds like a good start, I think.

From what I hear, FB are now pretty worried about fake news and other issues relating to the last US elections. I suspect they're also going over a few other big political events where FB played a big role. After seeing it happen at home, it probably feels more real. Brexit. The Syrian protests, later civil war. ISIS. The Turkish coup attempt. FB played a bigger role than any other media in all these.

I suspect what they are doing about true fake news is probably spam filtering.

What I'd be interested in seeing them try is the stack overflow approach. Have a subjective opinion about what a good contribution to FB is. Design features to promote that kind of content.


FB makes money from ad impressions. SO loses money. That's why FB is biased toward garbage engaging/enraging content.


We've written an algorithm that scores news for quality. It's a work-in-progress but you may be interested in checking out our chrome extension at http://www.civikowl.com/


How do you distinguish objective quality from your own biases?


>This also tangentially ties into a hypothesis I have on US presidential elections, which is that once it's down to two candidates, name recognition is all that matters. Every time (I'm aware of) that a president dominated the mass media of the time, he won the election. From FDR on radio to Kennedy on TV to Obama on social media and now Trump who rode on the public obsession with gossiping about every stupid thing he did or said.

Makes more sense than blaming Russia and Facebook.


Why would you think the two thesis cannot work together as force-multipliers? If name recognition matters, then why can't Russian troll farms influence an election by hacking what names you recognize most using Facebook?


Because occam's razor says that the mundane reasons (terrible Democratic candidate, poor economy, Trump's name brand value) are more plausible than sinister conspiracy theories involving unimpressive ad budgets pushed by media orgs who just happen to be large DNC donors.


Occam's razor applied by neglecting evidence is just bad reasoning.


Not if the evidence is poor.


Terrible democratic candidate translates to "she's a woman"

From Europe that's what it looked like

And that's what fake news and russian trolls pushed

And also "she wants war" and now we're getting closer and closer to a new world war

Occam says that the most simple solution should be accepted

But Occam was an english monk from the 13th century

He could not know that hacking the news using money power is easier than spreading a good message through a decent candidate


>Terrible democratic candidate translates to "she's a woman"

No, it translates to:

* Obvious corporate shill and corrupt beltway insider - made even more obvious in light of the content of the leaked emails.

* A candidate who had a chequered political career that included dog whistling racists - an event that Trump made massive political capital out of and used to get large portions of a base she was relying upon - black voters - to stay at home.

* A candidate whose approach was to present herself of defender of the status quo at a time of obvious economic distress for most Americans which has never worked, ever.

* And yes, warmonger (that much was obvious from her term as secretary of state)

* A candidate whose strategy to get people to vote for her was to hypocritically either imply or outright state that you were sexist or racist if you considered voting for the other guy. Funnily enough that backfired massively but people (like you) are still flogging that dead horse in what I can only assume is an errant attempt to ensure that Trump wins a second term in office.

The really puzzling part of this whole thing is the number of people on Hacker News who will argue out of one side of their mouth that Facebook ads area a scam that simply don't work and on the other hand that spending what is essentially political pocket change on them will buy you a presidency. Crazy.


Defender of the status quo? Her voting record shows otherwise(1). She defended those who needed it most, going back far longer than her Senate tenure. My daughter's life was saved by a clinic that would not have existed but for the rural health program in Arkansas she championed.

[1]https://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/55463/hillary-clin...


[flagged]


We said we would ban you if you did this again, so we've banned you for doing this again.

If you'd like to be unbanned, you can email us at hn@ycombinator.com and commit to commenting civilly and substantively in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


if that were true, Gore would have won in a landslide and Bush Sr. would have beaten Clinton.


I don't see how that follows.


Quality implies a scale (e.g. the best, at what?)

So what you consider quality is probably different that what the (mode) average person considers quality. Perhaps the issue is joe sixpacs are the bulk of the bell curve.

Compounding this is most people are also information-overloaded anyway and don't have time for quality. Emotional appeals and manipulation on the other hand are hard to ignore even if you don't really have the time or desire to engage with them ..


> For a big enough digital product, "hacking psychology" happens by default, more than intentionally.

Sure. But I think it's analogous to the days of patent medicines. Coca-Cola really did contain cocaine at some point; opium and heroin were also popular ingredients. [1] Did the people making those medicines intentionally set out to sell dangerously addictive substances? I doubt it. They just tried to make their sales graphs go up and to the right, experimenting and copying what worked in other patent medicines.

The only reason things changed is that there was a national outcry. People came to recognize the dangers of addiction. When Coca Cola was created in 1885, it was made from coca leaves and kola nuts. By 1891, they cut the coca content by 90%. They cut it again in 1904, and by 1922 went entirely without. [1, 2] And it wasn't until 1983 that they offered a version without the other addictive stimulant. [3]

I think we're starting to see the beginnings of a similar outcry today. I hope we'll see more of it. But if we want it to have an effect, it will have to happen at a societal level (e.g., the threat of regulation) and an individual level (with more people refusing digital time-sucks like Facebook and Candy Crush). I also think it needs to happen at an interpersonal one; people working on addictive digital products should face social questions, just like somebody making cigarettes would. Because as you say, many of the individuals creating things like Facebook just aren't thinking about these broader issues.

[1] See, e.g. https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-todays-illegal-drugs-were-market...

[2] https://www.snopes.com/cokelore/cocaine.asp

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caffeine-Free_Coca-Cola


That Snopes article is just wrong. Coca Cola still contains coca leaf extract. Coca leaf extract is not cocaine.


One coca leaf extract is indeed cocaine:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocaine#History

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_a_New_Organic_Base_in_the_C...

So I believe my comment above is still correct.


Only one extract. Referring to coca as cocaine isn't helpful.

It takes some effort to transform one into the other.

One is a medecinal herb (commonly used to fight altitude sickness), still used by Coca-Cola today, the other is a dangerously addictive substance that Coca-Cola used before they understood it's dangers.


> constant optimization towards viral dreck

Classifying a topic as/as-not viral dreck is, I posit, quite hard. Indulge me a bit here - I primarily come to HN to read about ML/AI/DNN. I mark the ones I like with the favorites button. During my work downtime, I go back to my favorites folder and re-read the topic. For some of the topics such as Word Embeddings, I must have re-read that paper a dozen times. I have actually used the material I learnt from my HN favorites list at my workplace, built it into products, gotten $$ off of it. So stuff like JIT compiler, LibHTTP, Bitcoin Bubble, Nintendo (all the topics trending right now) are viral dreck to me. I don't want this viral dreck. Get it off of HN!

You can see how quickly this sort of reasoning becomes vacuous.

I have an FB account mostly to interact with my extended family. Most of them are in their 70s and 80s. Every single topic they interact with on FB qualifies in my mind as viral dreck. However, by the nature of their comments, they seem to derive much pleasure in engaging with it. Given their age, who am I to deny them their cup of poison. Its not like they are going to get wise on word embeddings at the age of 75. Let them have their viral dreck.


..Indulge me a bit here - oh don’t encourage me. :)

On the “this is hard” point. Yes it is. I’m asserting that every business have a handful of core, hard problems. One of journalism’s is maintaining good quality standards, traditionally using subjective yet fairly well established definitions and methods, like an editor with good taste, formal fact checking, etc.. One of Apple’s hard problems is making consumer tech elegantly simple. The rhetorical click-wheel iPod. Again, there’s a lot of subjective elements that go into this.

How does a FB tackle this? Judging by your favourite HN article, I will forward a guess that you immediately jump to an ML or an algorithmic way of classifying things. On that front, I think FB could get some wins. Is dreck classification all that different from spam classification? Does PG’s “plan for spam” apply here? I would guess that it does for some dreck types. I actually think FB is currently deploying some spam-filter like system to deal with the most onerous “fake news.” Google’s starting point was page rank, a relevance ranking system. Fairly quickly, they added in “quality” ranking to supplement that. This is probably the least monolithic of their core systems. At the same time, SEO came into being and anti-spam became the third plank to google search. Taken together, this is quality classification. The inverse of dreck classification.

I don’t want to overemphasise these things though. FB is one of the best positioned to use “computer science-ish” solutions. But, I think the bigger choices are not at that level. They’re not a choice of technological approaches. It’s more mundane, values, priorities, product culture. Defining what they are and making good content a part of that definition.

HN already has quality built into it. When a feature is released (rarely, after all HN is not even a commercial product) someone makes a decision. Does nesting comments like this encourage dreck, in HN’s case flame wars and quips? Does changing something about moderation improve the quality of discussion? Are the really good, but slower, harder and more technical topics being buried? How do we unbury them? This speaks to your ideal HN.

No one has ever asked and answered such a question about youtube comments, we see the results. I don’t think FB has done enough of this, especially as relates to the high exposure. “viral” content.

The best articulation of the approach (IMO) is Spolsky’s “social UI^” and the early podcasts with him and Atwood. When they were making Stackoverflow, a lot of attention was paid to the type of content/behaviour encouraged by certain product/UI choices. They had an idea of what a good comment, question or answer looks like. They built the product to produce these. It wasn’t just about “more stuff.” They had an opinion about what stuff is valuable.

FB will need to be more programmable, but that’s easier if you start from the Spolsky mentality. Instead of “dreck classifier,” you just need to recognise flame wars, thought bubbles, divisive headlines. You need to decide that a comment by someone who has read an article is more valuable than a comment by someone who has not. The components become more achievable sounding, IMO.

^I wonder if this falls into your “dreck” category, for a little bit of extra irony. https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2004/09/06/its-not-just-usabi...


>> FB need to ask themselves "is the content (eg news) on FB of good quality?"

I think this is a general problem. If Facebook is optimizing for whatever users "Like", as you suggest with the data scientists, it is analagous to a business given customers whatever they ask for.

As Henry Ford is said to have said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse" (or something). You have to find a balance between "the customer is always right" and the fact that you are in a better position to be a domain expert.

They have to balance "what gets people engaged" with "what's good for everybody" and hopefully find an optimal solution for both.

Not sure how accurate it is, but the way Facebook's founding ideas are portrayed in The Social Network definitely screams "exploiting human psychology".


Is Facebook any different than Coke, Pepsi or any other consumed product? (Probably not.) Their KPIs are usage and retention. That's it. The is no "the world is a better, happier, safer place" KPI.

The means - intentional or not - are going to take whatever form necessary to meet the ends.

If there's a surprise here is that its taken Parker et al this wrong to figure this out.


For Facebook, the customers are the ad buyers and the users are the product. Their only focus is to keep the product on the platform diligently submitting personal information and viewing ads.


This seems like a simplistic take, and I don't think it accurately reflects the view of many people who actually work at Facebook. In online games like League of Legends, we do not say that whales are the customers and the players are the product, even though it's true in much the same way — the whales wouldn't give you money to play with the other users if the other users didn't exist. In both cases, the product is the product, non-paying users bring value to the product, and paying users turn that value into money.


> This seems like a simplistic take, and I don't think it accurately reflects the view of many people who actually work at Facebook.

Well sure. I'm sure thousands of employees have very sophisticated and subtle views. But when you average out all of those views, it winds up that the only thing that really matters is getting eyes on ads.

No one needs to be a villain. The subtle views just cancel each other out, and the huge amount of effort fb puts forth regresses to the mean. Get more eyeballs on ads.


>>In online games like League of Legends, we do not say that whales are the customers and the players are the product

We don't? Seems accurate to me.


No, people don't usually say that, because it is obvious to most people what the product is in that situation, and trying to redefine terms so that it's something else seems like newspeak.

The game is a product — the company produces it. The players are players — they play the game. The whales are a sub-category of players, so if the players are indeed the product, you'd have to say they're buying themselves. In fact, the game is a product that both paying and non-paying customers consume, in some cases with barely differing experiences.


> Not sure how accurate it is, but the way Facebook's founding ideas are portrayed in The Social Network definitely screams "exploiting human psychology".

It's fiction. Yes, inspired by a true story but fiction nonetheless.

You wouldn't base your knowledge about Nikola Tesla on "The Prestige", would you?


I'm gonna say no, they wouldn't, nor would they base their knowledge about Facebook on The Social Network, and to support this claim I cite the first 5 words: "Not sure how accurate it is."

I guess you're saying "don't trust movies" and/or "Facebook would never exploit human psychology, that's a made-up fiction." Har har, good one.

Regardless, "fiction inspired by a true story" would presumably have some true elements and some not-true elements. If they were all not-true elements, it would be completely made-up, literally 100% fiction (not based on or inspired by a true story), and anyway I don't think there's any such thing as 100% fiction, no matter how hard people try. Every fiction owes something to the reality it was concocted in.

Therefore the problem becomes knowing which elements are true (facts) and which are not-true (fiction).


I wonder how much of this is tied to the commiditization of content and how no one wants to pay for "good quality" content anymore--seems most actual good quality content exists because of philanthropy in our times.


I even try to pay for "good quality" content but it's increasingly mimicking viral sources that are sensational, rushed to publishing, and irrelevant.


Speaking as a content director myself and former writer/journalist, it does kill me a little inside that much of my day is spent around figuring out how to do this mimicking and how much I have to push my writers to think about this too in their writing. The state of the media industry/content makes me sad.

Also just read this, coincidentally, about Buzzfeed today: https://www.startups.co/articles/interview-jonah-peretti-co-...


> For a big enough digital product, "hacking psychology" happens by default, more than intentionally...

Totally agree.

> ..arrived at through a sort of natural selection process.

I am not so sure. This all well-known stuff and employed methodically. There is an interesting article where a Google design ethicist explains how technology hijacks your mind [1].

TL;DR:

Hijack 1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices. Ask yourself: What’s not on the menu?, Why am I being given these options and not others? Do I know the menu provider’s goals? Is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?

Hijack 2: Make apps behave like Slot Machines - give a variable reward. If you want to maximize addictiveness, link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.

Hijack 3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI). If I convince you that I’m a channel for important information, messages, friendships, or potential sexual opportunities — it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account — because there is a 1% chance you could be missing something important.

Hijack 4: Social Approval. When you get tagged by my friend, you think s/he made a conscious choice to tag you, when actually s/he just responds to Facebook’s suggestion, not making an independent choice. Thus Facebook controls the multiplier for how often millions of people experience their social approval on the line.

Hijack 5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat). You follow me — it’s rude not to follow you back. When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested c ontacts.

Hijack 6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay

Hijack 7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery. Messages that interrupt people immediately are more persuasive at getting people to respond than messages delivered asynchronously.

Hijack 8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons. When you you want to look up a Facebook event happening tonight (your reason) the Facebook app doesn’t allow you to access it without first landing on the news feed (their reasons), so Facebook converts every reason you have for using it, into their reason which is to maximize the time you spend consuming things. In an ideal world, apps would always give you a direct way to get what you want separately from what they want.

Hijack 9: Inconvenient Choices. Businesses naturally want to make the choices they want you to make easier, and the choices they don’t want you to make harder. NYTimes.com claims to give you “a free choice” to cancel your digital subscription. But instead of just doing it when you hit “Cancel Subscription,” they force you to call a phone number that’s only open at certain times.

Hijack 10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies. People don’t intuitively forecast the true time cost of a click when it’s presented to them. Sales people use “foot in the door” techniques by asking for a small innocuous request to begin with (“just one click”), and escalating from there (“why don’t you stay awhile?”). Virtually all engagement websites use this trick.

===

[1] http://www.tristanharris.com/2016/05/how-technology-hijacks-...


> When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested contacts.

There's a worse version here: some companies will mine various sources of information to get a strong indication that A knows B, suggest to B that they should connect to A in a way that sounds like an invitation from A but isn't, and if B takes the suggestion, send an invitation to A saying that B wants to connect.


All of this is discussed in depth in Hooked, an excellent read[1].

[1] - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1382248812


Excellent comment. I remember psychologists talking about the addictiveness of certain games (most notably MMOs) and identifying similar design elements.


In college I thought I might want to make games but got a dose of reality from MMOs and realized I wanted no part in building those traps for other people.


It's funny - my group of friends used to be hardcore MMO gamers, but after a while the skinner box effect became so obvious to everyone that we could no longer bring ourselves to play them. We've been discussing whether the addictiveness of games such as WoW actually spelled out the death of MMOs.


WoW has actually toned down the Skinner box effect. People would get stuck trying to repeat an event 10 times with a 20% success rate per try. If you have a lot of players then the number of people screwed over by getting the long statistical tail resembles the participant count of your forums. Bad press.

So you get credit for effort. Your odds go up with each attempt until you succeed. Rare items though, still Skinner boxes.


Just a minor point but I know actual psychologists (PhDs in clinical psychology) employed by Facebook, so it's definitely not just data scientists running a/b tests.


Not a minor point at all. Gaming companies hire psychologists too. Corporations are doing this sort of thing very deliberately and have been for a while.


> Where I think FB should be sheepish about is allowing the optimization to go on directionless. The only goals are quantitive. Quality is a foreign concept. No one has asked the question "what should FB be." The answer is simply "popular."

Problem is: Quality itself is defined by quantitative measurements. It's not some separate product attribute. If something increases your business KPIs, it is ipso facto higher quality. Motivated only by the imperative to optimize these KPIs, a company will do so, believing that it is continually making the product better. Allowed to run its course, you end up with a Paperclip Maximizer [1].

1: https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Paperclip_maximizer


The inevitable quality decline of popularity is much noted.

"A Theory of Mass Culture", Dwight Macdonald. First Published June 1, 1953

https://doi.org/10.1177/039219215300100301

(Available via Sci-Hub: https://sci-hub.ac/10.1177/039219215300100301)


Cannot agree more. The Internet has a natural selection mechanism that rewards the product that captures the most attention, for the longest time. As long as this mechanism is at play, there will always be mind hacks that get people hooked. So it's not that people are evil, it's the system, the ad-driven business model.


No of course it is inevitable -

All firms, are in competition.

Media firms must get attention to succeed.

There is more media than any human can consume in a life time.

Therefore, to succeed, you must be the media consumed, instead of someone else.

THis means you want to get peoples attention - at all costs.

This is sufficient to create the situation we have. You can always add some twist to the whole thing, but this is sufficient.


> THis means you want to get peoples attention - at all costs.

But that is a very narrow view. The New York Times could claim they have proof Trump is an Alien from outer space. For the day, they would win the attention of the world.

But the cost would be their credibility, which would lessen the share of attention they would receive on every day afterward.

So the NYT pursues a strategy of building a customer relationship. And trying to get as much sustained attention as they can over the course of a relationship. They don't purse getting attention AT ALL COSTS on each individual day, and neither should Facebook.


Eh, unless attention is worth far more than credibility. If the user base doesn't value credibility, then seeking it is a poor monetization strategy.


In the short-term or the long-term?


This happens all the time. The New York Times has become an incredibly biased source. New York City is an incredibly Democrat-leaning echo chamber (I don't care what party it is, I care that a major news source is biased). New York State at large isn't.

For anyone who thinks this isn't the case it isn't aware of the extent because the paper is paywalled so you can't see how had it is, page back to the debacle where the editorial staff were asking whether it was their job to question politicians' statements, or just "we report, you decide". A lot of people dropped their subscriptions because that's literally the only thing they were subscribing to the NYT for, and the editorial staff were announcing it didn't fit their profit model.

The only readers they have left, are ones who don't mind tuning in to get the DNC agenda for the day. More or less.

I got a free trial, and called to cancel it early (I had to call!), because it's just another tabloid. The only major news source I can stand to read anymore is maybe Reuters? I have to get my news from citizens who comb social media and investigate independently.


> I have to get my news from citizens who comb social media and investigate independently.

And where do you find these citizens? Twitter?


I just saw this comment - your comment is affected by survivorship bias.

Over the past several decades, a huge number of news papers have gone out of print.

In its place there is an explosion of non-newspapers, which have lower barriers to quality, accuracy, and cost.

The NYT website, as you recall was the first website perhaps aside from the WSJ, which jumped the trend of going free in order to survive.

As an aside - Even prior to the internet, there was sweeping consolidation in the media world. Most news papers could not afford to stay in print or defeat takeovers.

There is an older theory on industrialized economies - that most media firms will eventually be taken over, and therefore be soft on their particular conglomerate and sister firms.


How do you explain TMZ, People and the Enquirer / Globe / Weekly World News? Seems taht credibility isn't a necessary condition for popularity... at least not globally.


Reminds me of the dystopian conclusion of AI that to protect humans you have to enslave them in some manner to protect them from themselves. Facebook's endless psychology games and A/B testing will ultimately create the most profitable product - which will be the most manipulative product possible.


Well "shitty tabloids" tend to survive financially. The media companies that don't work that way tend to require a rich benefactor who doesn't mind making little money or losing money to keep it alive. So it's no surprise FB etc value survival.


I din’t see tinder winning so much as creating a new (and very psychologically exploitable) app market. It was not inevitable; many still don’t use tinder style dating at all.


I think you are focused on the style of dating (Quick hookups) where the person you are responding too is focused on the unique app feature that made tinder "Stand out" from the crowd (Swipe left/right).

It's that app feature which plays into the "exploitation" part of quick, responsive, immediate.


Right, but the feature only makes sense if the risk is low (quick hookups). There aren’t any meaningful signals; just photos.


Tinder is a "hookup" app isn't it, ie a way to find someone to have sex with; whilst OKcupid is aimed at "dating" ie people to have a longer term relationship [I know it has options for use in several scenarios, spouse seeking, dating, hookups, etc.].


I think that is the way it is framed, but as the OKCupid user base bleeds out those users are most likely turning to Tinder as it has more people. OKCupid has actually lifted some features off of Tinder which makes no sense as they're owned by the same parent company which is kind of shooting itself in the foot with this approach.

Anecdatally, I know people who have had long term relationships off of Tinder, some still together. I imagine that people will continue migrating over to Tinder from OKCupid.


> I think that is the way it is framed, but as the OKCupid user base bleeds out those users are most likely turning to Tinder as it has more people. OKCupid has actually lifted some features off of Tinder which makes no sense as they're owned by the same parent company which is kind of shooting itself in the foot with this approach.

Do you own index funds? I do. Which means I have stock in Coke and Pepsi both. But this is stupid because Coke and Pepsi are competitors, so my Coke returns are offset by my Pepsi losses whenever Coke wins and vice versa, right? Actually, no, because the beverage industry still grows in aggregate over time, and in exchange for not having to guess who's going to win the cola wars, I get to collect the benefits of both companies growing the overall market.

In this analogy, I'm match.com and OKCupid and Tinder are Coke and Pepsi.


This mostly makes sense but the ok cupid bleeding into tinder—the only part of okcupid worth reading was the fact that it was text centric rather than photo centric.


You can meet and keep anyone you like on Tinder. OKCupid is for people with dating anxiety, who need to distract themselves from talking to each other by filling out personality tests.


Okcupid was there first. Tinder was just more exploitative.


You are what you measure.


There's many people out there, myself included, who signed up with Facebook years ago and don't use it today. I don't like FB personally but don't understand the steady stream of criticism about -- that it's too addictive, that the site should be curating content in the wake of the last election? Pretty sad if you ask me. FB is not responsible for verifying the truth of every FB news post, nor helping its users to live productive meaningful lives. If you are addicted to FB you should do some soul searching.


I was with you until recently. Don't like it, don't use it. I log in once a month. Never felt strongly about FB one way or another.

But lately, I flipped. I think responsibility needs to correlate to some extent with power, to be useful. FB have power now, big power. They are not some site, they're a core social and political institution of society.

In some circles, FB's just a very common way to conduct part of your social life. In that context, complaining about FB is like complaining about your local town square. It's noisy and filthy and making our social time suck. I consider this an appropriate complaint, considering what FB is and does.

"Go start your own social network" is a red herring. It's like saying "if you don't like this country, leave". At least, I consider these similar.

On the news point, I consider this a seperate point and a bigger deal. This is what flipped me. FB is the world's most important news outlet. I think this is undeniable in 2017. They have tremendous power (and responsibility) in this role. News/journalism is an institution of democracy and political life generally. FB decide who sees what news, and this is a huge deal. If they peddle crap quality news, the overall quality of journalism in society deteriorates. The quality of news (taken as a whole, including the news bubbles and everything else) on FB is terrible. It's a valid complaint and we should be louder about it.


I love your comment but disagree on one point. I don't think Facebook has ANY obligation to improve the quality of the "news" shared on it.

I favor freedom of speech and freedom of association. If I have a friend who keeps posting BS articles from shady sources (and I do) then I just block them from my feed or simply ignore their posts about current events and conspiracy theories.

I think asking FB, or any other platform, to start policing the quality of what we post is dangerous. What happens is if a story breaks that official authorities deny, but which is actually true. Would you want FB being the arbiter of truth, in such a case, or would you prefer for individuals (preferably alot of them) to be free to do their own research and to come to their own conclusions?


But they aren't just an anonymous background hosting provider, they algorithmically promote some posts over others. If Facebook just hosted static pages where all posts were treated equally I might agree with you, but they're actively seeking out "good" content and pushing it to other people.

Imagine you run a coffee shop, and a local political group hosts a weekly get together there. They're weird people, always talking about crazy theories and plans, but they're not hurting anyone and they're great customers, so you don't want to kick them out. If some other people come in and start getting freaked out at the conspiracy talk and "time to march" proclamations, shouldn't you walk over and say "hey don't worry about them, this stuff is completely crazy, I actually looked it up myself since they talk about it every week. I'd be happy to show you some articles if you're worried." Maybe you're not technically endorsing their ideas, but you're hosting them, serving them, giving them a prominent place in your shop. You could put a sign out front that says "I don't endorse anything said in my shop", but that just protects you, not your customers.

Now imagine it's not just a coffee shop, but the only coffee shop, everyone in town goes there, and half of them get all their news just by talking to other patrons. Is there any obligation to pay attention to what's being said and who gets to reserve your best tables? If you didn't want to be involved in this, you should have grown so much. If you buy up every other shop and meeting place in town, you have to accept the responsibilities that come with all that power.


(OP)

Cheers. I actually wrote a response before I read this comment and deleted it because this is exactly what I wanted to say, but better written. This is exactly the point. The thing is, we already hold journalism to these standards. It doesn't matter if its radio or TV or print. If a major publication or channel totally dropped all standards as a matter of principle, and responded with "but who knows what truth really is man"type statements... we wouldn't find this acceptable.


If you run a coffee shop where Nazis regularly come to hang out, hold their group meetings, spread their propaganda, etc all while wearing swastika tee shirts, people will call your shop a Nazi coffee shop, and they will be very right to do so - even if you swear that you are not a Nazi and are just doing your best to protect freedom of expression.

This is what Twitter and Facebook are today (Twitter will even hide these accounts in their German digital coffee shop, where spreading Nazi propaganda is illegal, but are fine letting it be for the rest of the world).


Both the left-wing zealots & right-wing zealots (and others) peddle their propaganda and skewed opinion pieces on Facebook. It's not like one crowds the other out, like a coffee shop with a shared physical space might. Everybody has their own little view of the world from inside FB, curated to their own preferences and propagated by AI similarity recommendations.

Facebook itself isn't a cesspool of just 1 side, so isn't meaningfully associated with any one. Independent and overlapping cesspools of all strokes form and grow in multitudes there.


> It's not like one crowds the other out, like a coffee shop with a shared physical space might. Everybody has their own little view of the world from inside FB, curated to their own preferences and propagated by AI similarity recommendations.

This statement is incorrect. Twitter has a huge harassment problem, that users have been begging the company to fix for years, to no avail. There are users openly associating with nazi ideology (not exaggerating here - we are talking about users with swastikas as their avatars, nazi references in their bios, etc.[0]) harassing others on the platform. In no way is this people in their little bubble, being perfectly isolated from others who don't share their ideology.

As far as left-wing vs right-wing or whatever, I don't really care. I chose nazis as the main example because this is a very clear ideological group that has been unequivocally responsible for crimes against humanity in the past, against which Twitter chooses to do absolutely nothing (even if this contradicts their own TOS). Well, they choose to do one thing: make those accounts invisible in countries where they would be breaking the law if they didn't. So they literally have a `isNazi` flag in their database, but they only choose to use it to not get in trouble with German/Austrian/etc. law instead of, you know, just banning people who are calling for ethnic cleansing. Great job, Jack Dorsey.

If there are other similar ideologies (left wing, right wing, or other) you would like to put in the same bucket, please do - I have no issues with that. The only fundamental issue is that Twitter is choosing to let extremist, well defined, communities such as nazi ideologues thrive on their platform because growth or something.

[0]: if you really need proof: https://twitter.com/anp14


Agreed, but I'm trying to be persuasive and jumping to Nazis usually doesn't help.


The trouble with this, of course, is that you build an echo chamber for both yourself and your friend. You no longer see the posts you think are BS, and you preclude yourself from challenging your friend's BS in comments.

I agree that delegating to Facebook judgement of what speech is acceptable or not isn't a good idea, but the flip side of that is you have to take a slightly more active role in cultural discourse if you have any desire to see society converge on good ideas, and eschew harmful ones.


Whose responsibility is it to ensure you don't have an echo chamber? Yours, or Facebook's?


A little from column A, a little from column B. We're all in this together.


So policing FB creates less of an echo chamber? Huh? It’s perpetuating the echo chamber of whoever gets appointed by the gov.


No? I don't follow. Did you reply to the wrong comment?


> FB is the world's most important news outlet. I think this is undeniable in 2017. They have tremendous power (and responsibility) in this role.

Do they have more power and responsibility than the grocery store newsstand that has the National Enquirer next to Time Magazine, or the cable TV company that delivers Fox News and RT alongside more reliable news sources, or the email services that people used to forward everyone nutty right-wing newsletters before sharing them on Facebook became popular?

Most people don't want news. They want outrage porn and confirmation bias. They want junk food. Facebook optimizes for what people want to see, just like your corner store optimizes for what people want to buy. It's not 7/11's fault that people want to drink 64 oz sodas and eat gummy bears and it's not Facebook's fault that people want to read Breitbart.

If 7/11 stopped selling Big Gulps and gummy bears, people would stop going to 7/11 and they would go broke. If Facebook stopped letting people share outrage porn and confirmation bias with each other, people would stop using Facebook and it would go out of business. So those of us who just want a nice place to buy batteries or keep in touch with distant friends and family members just have to accept that people will use those same venues and mechanisms for things we disapprove of.

P.S.: "Journalism is an institution of democracy"? Well, sometimes. And if you do a good enough job of it, you get a prize named after someone who made a fortune by selling terrible quality newspapers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Pulitzer. News has been a cynical business of propaganda for profit far more often than it has ever been an institution of democracy.


FB is very much falling into a local not global optimum.

Social networks are optimizing for the derivative of peoples actions. A/B testing to see what causes more clicks etc. However, people are complex enough that they notice patterns and change how they approach things. Some of the most frequent users suddenly chose to quit.

I remember seeing a slightly different discussion on HN ~5 years ago with almost the same arguments and thinking it was Déjà Vu because it was so similar to another HN post. Which get's a very different response than the first time around, because people change. Yesterday FB may have been the worlds most important news source, today less so, and long term people will treat it as just another tabloid.

In that context, starting your own 'social network' will eventually be good advice, because trust is much easier to lose than gain.


>I don't like FB personally but don't understand the steady stream of criticism about -- that it's too addictive

You're right, you don't understand.

This is a problem that you don't personally deal with but the data shows that there is a problem.

Many tech consumer products are specifically tailored to get a user more and more addicted to the service, similar to the way the food industry specifically tailors food products to make humans consume more and more of the food (salt/fat/sugar). Never-ending and constantly optimizing research and development goes into this addiction cycle since for many tech products revenue == traffic/engagement.

Adding a little bit of "sweetness" to your product makes it more enjoyable, and that's a good thing. But capitalism is a never ending process of optimizing for profit so before long your product is so "sweet" it is causing serious issues for many people.


I like this analogy for why Facebook should be regulated. We have no problem regulating food for health benefits, so to extend that to other items seems like a decent proposal.

I believe it is harder to empirically calculate and observe negative psychological effects than to do the same for physiological effects, but psychological concerns are becoming more mainstream.


Television is also likewise specifically tailored to get a user more and more addicted to its service. Yet it falls upon the media consumer to not get themselves addicted or wear blinders to anything else but their one program/network that encourages their particular leanings.


The games facebook plays to get you to stay are as harmless as video games, Teaser tv promos or chain letters.

The mass collection of data is the real harm. The slowly eroding public web is up there too.


Ah, the age old argument for personal responsibility...

"Oh, is the river polluted? Then don't go in the damn river! Use your head! Don't expect someone, or god forbid the government, to force someone to clean it up just so you can go fishing in the river!"

It doesn't matter if you or I choose not to use Facebook. The rest of the planet is glued to their smartphones and phubbing us every time we leave the house and that affects us regardless of our choices.


Your analogy is ridiculous. In what way is polluting a river like hosting a social network on your own servers?


> Your analogy is ridiculous. In what way is polluting a river like hosting a social network on your own servers?

It's an analogy for the "age old personal responsibility argument", but if you want to get metaphorical then maybe society is the river, Facebook the pollutant?

I mean come on man, it doesn't take a creative genius to connect the dots here, and it's certainly not ridiculous.


The Facebook logo is everywhere. On the side of delivery vans, pizza boxes, business cards and paperback books. Public spaces are littered with people staring down at their phones. Our politics has been usurped by the machinations of social media.

Pretending like an individual can simply logout of Facebook and not have to deal with the social consequences is what is ridiculous!

I'll go full Godwin: There were probably less swastikas per square inch at the height of Nazi Germany than there are Facebook logos today. The perceived rise of authoritarianism of some political Other is nothing more than the actual authoritarianism of Facebook.


Because facebook is a handy label for all forms of malicious capitalism. And the excesses of malicious capitalism are becoming sufficiently extreme that people are starting to notice. It's much easier to notice this in new technologies rather than old ones you're already comfortable with. So facebook gets the flak, which is deserved but lots of other people avoid it.

Take soft drinks which are terrible for peoples health. Your profit comes from:

1) Convincing people that buying your drink will make them popular & happy. 2) Convincing the government to keep corn subsidies. 3) Convincing everyone that calories in calories out and self control are the _real_ method to health. Our sugar water isn't at fault it's your personal weakness!

We're in a situation where powerful companies use their economic clout to buy off the government and convince the population of falsehoods so they can make more profit.

This isn't new but since we've gotten pretty optimised on at solving genuine human needs (companies vs entropy) is much harder to profit from than fooling suckers into bad choices (companies vs irrational monkey brains).

So now all our most profitable companies largely work to create little anti-competitive fiefdoms and to fool people into harming themselves. So of course people are going to point out that this is terrible and we should probably do something to regulate it's excess.


I worry far more about malicious collectivism.


A soft drink maker's profit comes from making something its customers like and want to pay for. Busybodies notwithstanding.


You forgot the part of shaping public opinion that their products are not a health issue and having the public subsidize their main ingredient. Even if you don't drink soft drinks you still subsidize health effects and corn and sugar.


The same applies to drug dealers. Busybodies notwithstanding.

But underneath that simplistic surface view, you're dealing with somebody who inflicts cost on society as a whole to extract profit for themselves. And they extract it in a way that individuals don't necessarily care to fix.

And so, you'll need somebody to stand up for a functioning society. That would then be your "busybodies". (Sure, there's the libertarian fantasy of complete self-determination. Which inevitably leads to a might-makes-right world. Most of us have decided long ago we'd rather live in a civilized society)


If soft drink mfgs had to actually pay for the water, sugar, pollution, and diabetes treatments, they wouldn't be profitable.

Externalize costs, privatize profits.


A methamphetamine dealers profit comes from making something their customers like and want to pay for... etc.


Social media will have their "cigarette moment," after enough time has passed to do the studies.


These statements + the 60 minutes piece awhile back (https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/brain-hacking-2/) make this a very likely outcome. I wonder what the equivalent warning label + restrictions will look like.


Removing much of the motivation for this crap by outlawing exploitation of user data, and making even having it very expensive and/or risky, through huge bond or insurance requirements to cover data breaches for anyone who stores such things, would be a good place to start.

And yes, that should absolutely apply to more traditional data-mining companies (credit card companies, for example).


Like you I stop actively using FB for about a year now. I've considered deleting the profile but thought that is giving facebook too much importance (I would also hate that my grandparents can't find my old photos anymore).

On the other hand I can see why people are treating facebook more like an utility and not a service in a competitive market: the size of its network is now huge and too many people rely on it to receive and propagate information.

The problem with facebook, in my view, is they have (understandably) developed all these tools for you to easily add things to it but make zero meaningful effort to let you (as user) erase things you have place there. After a decade of using facebook, why can't I easily unlike everything I liked? why can't I go and unfollow (massively) "friends" from 10 years ago? why doesn't facebook REALLY delete my content when I tell it to?

I am free to leave facebook or stop using it, but apparently I'm not sure to stop facebook from keep using my old content for eternity. if this was a company that could fold tomorrow, I wouldn't care about this. But its facebook. it's the power company, the water company, the government, and they have my data and does not let me trim it.

Their algorithm acts like a "sad" person who after several desperate and failed attempts at getting my attention to use the service resort to showing my ancient posts/photos to people who are likely to interact with me so that I have to login and use it. It's a sad service.


I think what makes me the most angry at Facebook is how impossible it is to liberate your data from Facebook. When you upload information/data to Facebook, you don't own it anymore; Facebook gives you no way to retrieve it.

Sure, they offer an archive process which gives you a zip archive of your post history in HTML, but it's not in any format that's easy to parse or process. On top of that, Facebook events are impossible to get off platform because their API does not expose any way to grab them, which keeps event invites and communication completely locked into the platform.

I'd be much more sympathetic to letting Facebook run amok if they had an actual story for meaningfully extracting data or interacting with your Facebook network without using their client. Then competitors to Facebook would actually stand a chance. But Facebook makes it as hard as possible to liberate your own data, which shows me that they have no intention on letting you leave once you're in.


The EU is going in the right direction with this, re: the right to data portability in the GDPR. Only way Facebook is going to implement this functionality is when they are forced to.


I agree, more tools for us to just manage "our" data would be good a sign of good will.

But this is not gonna happen. As soon as they do that others will use it to migrate users away.

And the quality of the archive they send us is such that it's clear they don't think of the data as "ours".


> If you are addicted to FB you should do some soul searching.

Facebook didn't just build something really cool and people got addicted to it.

They built something really cool, then hired the smartest people to find ways to make it addictive.

Remember this scene: https://youtu.be/YKRFlNryaWw?t=88

If the Colonel simply makes great chicken that people want to eat, then I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If, on the other hand, he puts an addictive chemical into it that makes you crave it fortnightly, that's a different thing.

Facebook has spent a lot of time and money making itself addictive.


Read the book “Irresistable: The Rise of Addictive Technology” and I suspect you’ll have a different opinion. People get addicted to everything that exists and you’re essentially blaming the victim. The difference is also that Facebook designs its Newsfeed/Instagram like a slot-machine that encourages people to just keep hitting refresh. Maybe they’ll see something new or they’ll get a like...

Also, most people aren’t nearly as smart as the people on this thread. So you have fairly average folks getting hooked on tech that was designed to be that way by psychology majors and data scientists.

Also, Facebook could do a lot better in removing propaganda and obvious lies. They just don’t want to remove all the hundreds of millions of fake accounts they report as real to their ad buyers.


With all the resources at their disposal, they could perhaps bring in a professional editorial staff to rank each news source based on some unbiased (ahem) and transparent criteria like # of sources for a story, past accuracy, level of bias, etc. Still let people click and post whatever but apply an easily visible and understandable "news" score.


Some businesses rely heavily on FB and other social media for getting customers. Other people only get family updates from it. It's getting harder and harder to "just don't use" social media.


It used to be that every business needs a website. Facebook is just a cheap and easy alternative to a website, and it comes with a lot of features like analytics (I think FB Pages have Analytics) and knowing how many people are interested in your services. Sadly it comes with your business website being generic and inside a walled garden run by arbitrary-moral police/government who will also lie to you to make money out of you ("Pay $ for this post to get x impressions!", but how many of those will be from bots?).

Hopefully with technology being simpler, it'll be simpler for the 95% (https://lifehacker.com/this-chart-shows-how-computer-literat...) of people to make websites without walled gardens. But a small business probably thinks an FB page is good enough, why pay for your own design and hosting?


  It's getting harder and harder to "just don't use" social media.
I don't know about the business perspective, but why is it hard not to use facebook for people? It's a serious question. Everybody I know (me included) who is not on facebook has no problem with it, and it certainly isn't getting harder.


> but why is it hard not to use facebook for people? It's a serious question. Everybody I know (me included) who is not on facebook has no problem with it, and it certainly isn't getting harder.

You'll get left out of real life. If your social circle organizes events on Facebook, and you're the only weirdo that can only be contacted by email and phone, you'll be forgotten by all but your strong friends (who don't need Facebook's friend-menu to remember you).

That might not be a problem if your social circle doesn't rely on Facebook much or you're (for instance) an introvert who doesn't care about parties thrown by acquaintances (which are a nice way to meet new people), but there are a lot of people who those don't apply to and who would have to sacrifice to avoid Facebook.


That assumes a lot about what one considers "real life." My social circle has never included "people who only remember me because I'm in a list curated by Facebook". Whether or not these people invite me to parties makes no difference to me. I think as one gets older one finds that "Partying" with distant acquaintances becomes less and less an important part of one's social life.


> That assumes a lot about what one considers "real life." My social circle has never included "people who only remember me because I'm in a list curated by Facebook". Whether or not these people invite me to parties makes no difference to me.

I already covered that in my original comment: it might not be a bad thing for you, but you are not everyone. There exists a significant number of people for whom quitting Facebook would have some real negative costs.

> I think as one gets older one finds that "Partying" with distant acquaintances becomes less and less an important part of one's social life.

Also getting invited to a party was just an example, and not all parties are booze-fueled keggers where you "party."

It's also not "distant acquaintances" I'm taking about. The group I'm talking about are the people 1) who you like enough to want to hang out with, 2) who like you enough to invite you, but 3) don't like you enough to always remember your special communication preferences unprompted.


This happened to me: I quit Facebook some while back, but there is an alumni group I wanted to connect to. But their events are organized on an FB page, which I can't even access. So I had to find someone else who's a member of the group and ask them when they are assembling.

I'm reminded somewhat of certain websites only favoring a specific browser or being written in a manner that seriously messes with accessibility.


> you'll be forgotten by all but your strong friends (who don't need Facebook's friend-menu to remember you).

How is that a bad thing?

It's not normal or healthy to try to maintain hundreds or thousands of "friendships" with people you barely know. You don't need to keep in life-long contact with some guy you spent 4 minutes talking to at a bar while on vacation 5 years ago.


>> you'll be forgotten by all but your strong friends (who don't need Facebook's friend-menu to remember you).

> How is that a bad thing?

I already covered that in my original comment: it might not be a bad thing to you, but you are not everyone. There exists a significant number of people for whom quitting Facebook would have some real negative costs.

> It's not normal or healthy to try to maintain hundreds or thousands of "friendships" with people you barely know. You don't need to keep in life-long contact with some guy you spent 4 minutes talking to at a bar while on vacation 5 years ago.

That's not what I was talking about at all. I was thinking more about the kind of friendly acquaintances that you see regularly. For instance, you might have 3-10 close friends, 20-30 more distant friends, and 500-2000 Facebook non-friends. I'm talking about the second group of 20-30 friends.


> I was thinking more about the kind of friendly acquaintances that you see regularly.

If you see them regularly, why not just exchange phone numbers or e-mail addresses? I just don't understand why Facebook is needed to keep in contact with them.. unless you somehow feel it's necessary to always know what those distant acquaintances are eating for lunch at any given time.


Because by getting off Facebook, you end up missing a lot of what you are used to. If your life and your friend's life is not on it, this won't affect you. But if you and your social network has let Facebook grow as a dependency, you can't easily get out of it. The only way it could work is if you manage to migrate your entire social circle off it and it won't happen.

By getting off Facebook, you simply make yourself hard to reach and it will make your casual relationships rot and die. When my friends create an event, they click "add all members of 'amazing friend group' to event" and that's it.

Nobody is going to then track down the one person who decided to leave the group for a casual event like "5-7 beer this Friday". Even for big events, you may end up being let out simply because you have made yourself harder to reach.

Sure, by leaving Facebook I would still be able to see my 2-3 closest friends and partner but that's it. Nobody in this day and age is going to send an email to me asking to come to a group event. Hell, I don't even know the email addresses of my closest friends, let alone our extended friend group. I can't even imagine how I would organize a 20+ Christmas event without it.


A christmas party for 20 people? Do you not have anyone's phone number? Or address?

People will ask if you are going to the party and people tweet about a party or they will ig a photo about it. If you have no point of contact outside of facebookfriendgroup you are on the edge of losing connection to that group. It will start happening when people start moving over to snapchat one by one, joining new circles you are not part of, having smaller parties you didn't know about. If those casual friends are important you really need to strengthen those bonds outside of facebook. One day there will be a new smaller group.. will you make the cut?


Everyone is on Facebook but only some people are on the other networks. Fragmentation is not much of an issue or danger.[1]

Sure, if I'm not looking at Facebook and a party happens without me I'll receive some snaps about it. However at that point it's already too late. Snapchat is for sharing slices of life. Nobody organize big events via Snapchat.

Twitter and Instagram are for interacting with strangers. I can't see how posting a photo of a private event to my Instagram followers would help the situation. All it will do is end up with people unfollowing me for posting content that is not what they follow me for. It's not somewhere to interact with friends. Twitter is even worst. Am I to do? Look at #party daily in hope to stumble on a real life friend using it? On both those networks, I follow brands and hobbies. Not close friends.

Everyone is on Facebook and leaving it would simply make my social life harder. I've tried it many time and I've also seen it happen. Whenever someone isn't on Facebook, you don't see them. It keeps happening. "Where is Bob? Did we forget to invite Bob tonight? Does anyone of you has his phone number? I can't seem to find him on Messenger." Phone numbers and addresses are on a need to know basis. If I never needed someone's, I don't have it. Since everyone uses Messenger to communicate, I don't have a lot of them.

[1] Perhaps that's a French Canadian thing, over here Facebook has around 70% of the population while Twitter has only around 10%. Even if you go Canada wide, Facebook has 71%, Twitter 27%, Instagram 20% and Snapchat 9%.


> FB is not responsible for verifying the truth of every FB news post

I look at it this way: If FB wouldn't influence the content that you're looking at - e.g. they wouldn't go on fire if someone posts a nude photo - then it were alright to deny responsibility as they'd merely provide infrastructure.

If, however, they do discriminate content they don't like then, given their sphere of influence, they have to be held responsible I think.


This is key. The phone company is a common carrier, and can reasonably claim not to discriminate.

Facebook's entire reason to exist is to introspect on, and discriminate between, messages you send through them.


You're completely right on a personal level. People should really do some thinking about why they spend so much time on Facebook. However, there is a separate discussion about Facebook's effect on the community. Zoom out and you can't see any individuals, just large trends. Say 30% of Americans feel like they are addicted to Facebook. Maybe, as a community, we should do something about that.


But you do live in an environment with lots of FB users and they make decisions that may affect you (up to and including laws).


"Just because you do not take an interest in Facebook news, doesn't mean Facebook news won't take an interest in you" - Perecles


I'm sorry, but I can't get behind this idea that you're not responsible for the platform you create. Quite frankly, I do believe FB has a moral obligation to what they've brought into the world.


I'd love (love!) for the answer to all questions about addiction to be "suffer your own consequences," but the US exists as a massive welfare state where intelligent and conscientious citizens should try to ensure that the investments they're making in the lower classes are going to better use than heroin and acting as proxy votes to foreign regimes in US elections.

But we're not even close to a libertarian enough nation to just ignore the problems that corporations create for our citizens, even if those problems could be avoided by personal responsibility. And "soul searching" is waaaay too far up Maslow's hierarchy for most US citizens to even start considering.


Why is it that the faults of people always boil down to "personal responsibility", but the faults of companies never do? Why is FB not responsible for what they're doing to their platform?


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It's not correct to say that America isn't a welfare state, and if you're a Democrat (which it sounds like you are), then you should not be offended by that term.

This is the distribution of federal spending: https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/images/pubs...

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid consist of almost 50% of the federal budget. If you include "Other," which includes other welfare programs such as veterans benefits, federal food stamps, as well as "Non-defense," which includes additional veterans benefits/housing/health, you can see that a very large percentage of the federal budget is on welfare programs.

Military budget in the US is obviously absolutely atrociously massive, but it is only about 15% of the budget.

If you look at the federal debt, you can see that the trajectory doesn't look great: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ac/Total_US...

So I don't think it is at all fair to say that the US is not a welfare state, particularly when compared to the foundation of the country being rooted in laissez-faire classical liberalism. I am all for the discussion of mitigating attempts on economic distribution of wealth, but what we have in place even now already far surpasses what the budget is capable of facilitating (in terms of cost, not strategy or outcome).


I'd like to add that the military itself is kinda looking like a welfare program. The US isn't at war. The military is often considered a fall back carrier path. If we even get 10 cents on the dollar in return for military labor, I'd be surprised.

When I step back and look at it in a larger picture, I kinda see a welfare program that demands its recipients stay in shape and follow some special rules.


Not a bad point. Military service is actually one of the most reliable paths for upwards economic mobility, and it is absolutely not tied to any natural demand or market. In practice it does serve a welfare-like function, albeit inefficiently.


[flagged]


>fewer social services than any other industrialized country.

Conversely your own argument can simply be stated as

"We have a smaller welfare state than most other industrialized countries"

So I don't think you successfully argued that we don't have a welfare state at all.


The existence of welfare does not a welfare state make.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state

By the technical definition, yea, it does seem to.


If any state that isn't just police and a military counts as a welfare state, then I don't think that's a useful definition of welfare state.


Paul Graham wrote a great piece on this in 2010 http://www.paulgraham.com/addiction.html

> As far as I know there's no word for something we like too much. The closest is the colloquial sense of "addictive." That usage has become increasingly common during my lifetime. And it's clear why: there are an increasing number of things we need it for. > The next 40 years will bring us some wonderful things. I don't mean to imply they're all to be avoided. Alcohol is a dangerous drug, but I'd rather live in a world with wine than one without. Most people can coexist with alcohol; but you have to be careful. More things we like will mean more things we have to be careful about. > You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don't think you're weird, you're living badly. We'll have to worry not just about new things, but also about existing things becoming more addictive. That's what bit me. I've avoided most addictions, but the Internet got me because it became addictive while I was using it. Sounds pretty eccentric, doesn't it? It always will when you're trying to solve problems where there are no customs yet to guide you. > And unless the rate at which social antibodies evolve can increase to match the accelerating rate at which technological progress throws off new addictions, we'll be increasingly unable to rely on customs to protect us.

That means there's going to be a market for products to manage addiction. My bet would be driven by parents and schools


> As far as I know there's no word for something we like too much.

There is an expression that could be relevant: Supernormal stimulus, [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernormal_stimulus


NAILED IT


Yes, the wikipedia article also mentions:

> Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett argues that supernormal stimulation govern the behavior of humans as powerfully as that of animals. In her 2010 book, Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, she examines the impact of supernormal stimuli on the diversion of impulses for nurturing, sexuality, romance, territoriality, defense, and the entertainment industry’s hijacking of our social instincts.


I went to a hackathon a few years ago. At the end of the hackathon, my team member (about 10+ years older than me, I am in my early 30s) asked to contact her on Facebook. I told her I didn't have one, because I didn't. Not even an account that I didn't log-in to. She gave me a weird look, then frowned, as if I was shunning her. My other team member looked shocked as well.

I thought it was weird that if you don't have a Facebook account you're kind of looked at weird now.


About 80% of US, internet-using adults have Facebook accounts. I think her surprise was warranted.

In fact, Id bet that tech-savvy adults aged 20-50 who have Facebook accounts is in the high 90% range.

You are weird for not having one. She isn't weird for expecting you to.

http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-20...


Would you say he is "weird" for not having one? It's like saying someone is weird for not liking sandwiches. It's just a preference. I have a facebook account but have not logged into it in years. I can't say I feel like I'm missing anything.


I mean weird to be synonymous with atypical. If you don't like sandwiches, that is probably atypical. It isn't a value judgement.


Who doesn't like sandwiches?? I would say that's pretty weird too!


I have a friend who just doesn't "get" why people like sandwiches. So they do exist.


Met a guy in his twenties recently. He wanted to share something with me on FB. Told him I had no account. He replied politely: Oh, yes. I believe the many people in tech do not have one.

He was a smart guy.


I’ve also never opened a FB account. I also used to receive those surprised reactions. For whatever reason, nobody ever reacts that way anymore. To me, that’s one strong indicator that FB doesn’t actually matter.


There was a marked shift at the beginning of this year. I think everyone got political fatigue and Facebook was a channel for exacerbating the overexposure.


For me, I'd been wanting to leave for a while, political fatigue was "the straw the broke the camel's back".


Ha, try WhatsApp. I see more and more people cancelling their Facebook accounts (mostly because they feel like it's become too much of a time-waster), but WhatsApp is the normal way of communication now.

The advantage is that I can still give my number and people will see that I don't have WhatsApp, so at least nobody feels like I'm dissing them.


I have to admit, sometimes I worry about the ethics of capturing peoples attention given all we know about psychology now, whether it's through social media or video games or other things where optimizing for people's attention is important. I work in video games, and on the one hand I'm pretty proud of the work I do, but on the other hand you see people get a little bit over-invested in these things and it's easy to wonder if it's totally a good thing to be able to push people's buttons like that. Once you're past the naivety of like "is this fun", and you start thinking in terms of like intermittent reward schedules and ways to monetize players it starts feeling... weird?

I don't know what you can do about it though. I can't imagine any company willingly dumbing down engagement with their product for the common good. I'm guessing that as all these psychological techniques become more prevalent, cultural norms will probably shift to counter.


Social climate is really the most reliable way to temper the effect of social media. If the mainstream media wasn't paid for years to repeat the words "Facebook" and "Twitter", it's possible our present would be significantly different. People should not feel as if they must be on some company's advertising platform in order to maintain friendships with people. It's pretty sick that a lot of people feel this way.

Messages about the damaging effects of social media need to be promoted in society, just as we hammered home the cancer-causing effects of tobacco. In fact, it would be great if there was a counter-advertising campaign against social networks that told people how they worsen depression, how many hours/days/years you're wasting on Facebook, and that you can put down your phone and actually do things with your friends. If Facebook has any real value, it can fight negative press. But they won't because they have very little value; just with big tobacco, they'd spend a bunch of money on misinformation and slander, which would come out and make them look worse than when they started.


The thing is...by nature humans are a group species. If the group is using facebook, you will be compelled to use this too, either for social validation,feeling of belonging or whatever. You will always be weakened even if you don't need facebook. This is the hack. Even if you don't use it because "I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' you as an individual will always lose power in the group and will always be looked as weak, because in nature, humans are a group species. Sean Parker seems to know this and these guys abuse of this power


Of course, if you are a leader, you can sway your entire group to use something else as a primary medium. I've seen a few examples.

The catch is twofold.

Leaders, by definition, are few and far between.

Moreover, for a leader, FB offers tools and prospects to gain an ever-expanding audience. The leader must have a strong aversion to FB to ignore this lure.


pg "unloaded" on this ten years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=77173.

The submission can be read here: https://web.archive.org/web/20071109094843/http://ycombinato...

Surprisingly to no one, a year later the issue hadn't gone away: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=372593


Is this the equivalent of "Android had it first" anytime there's an iPhone feature announcement?


For me it is more like "Crack used to be addictive; it still is, and it used to as well."


It's such an interesting discussion to me because it's kind of an open question: is the problem really with exploiting human psychology per se? Or is it with exploiting human psychology to achieve non-constructive ends?

The time investment that Facebook exacts from its users far outweighs the benefits it provides — e.g. social cohesion. So we feel much less comfortable with the platform's effective psychological hooks. But take an app like stickK[1], which cleverly recruits social and financial pressure to incentivize user-defined good behavior, and the effectiveness of the hooks don't make us so uneasy. Nir Eyal recently discussed this distinction on the Indie Hackers podcast[2].

I suppose a part of this is due to consent; stickK users consciously sign up to be manipulated. But consent can't be the entire equation, or else we'd let modern-day cigarette companies off the hook. It's 2017 — smokers know what they're signing up for, and yet they sign up.

[1] http://www.stickk.com/

[2] https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/023-nir-eyal-of-hooked#...


> 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.'

I think the tide has been steadily turning on this. I never did use social media beyond creating an account for work or curiosity, quickly getting bored and abandoning. Sure there may have been a time where I felt a little less connected, but those feelings have diminished over time.

The "workarounds" available for those not on social networking are abundant, and more importantly to me, much simpler and time effective for me to use.


> I never did use social media

Yet here you are posting on HN.


As someone who "left" social media I still frequently feel a void from it. Recently I moved back to my hometown and realized I had completely lost touch with anyone I knew in high school. Different phone, didn't port contacts. I know they all live nearby but I feel like I lost them forever.

The bottom line is there is no connection.


Before social media, those are people we forgot about and moved on from. And for good reason.

Social media, especially Facebook, seems engineered to create this illusion that we're more connected with our "friends"; while those people may have been our friends in another time, that doesn't mean they're our friends now just because we have Facebook connections with them. If it only takes not having a Facebook profile to not exist to people, they're not really our friends to begin with. I can say this about the vast majority of people who are my "friends" on Facebook; I know for sure that 99% of them will never contact me unless Facebook prods them to post "Happy Birthday" on my timeline. This isn't to say that my connections are bad people, but it's to say that social media has distorted what friendship and human bonding actually mean in order to profit on peoples' loneliness.

It's not difficult for a truly lonely person to come to that conclusion, but that perspective solidified in me when I became real-life friends with a neighbor of mine. It had been several years since I made a non-superficial friendship. And no social medium was required. I was reminded that real friends are actually interested in seeing you, talking to you, and coming to you first when they've got news about something. Just one friend like that is far more valuable than all the "friends" I ever had on Facebook.

You may still feel a void from it, but I do hope you eventually make some real-life connections like I have and forget about your old "friends" entirely. I abstained from Facebook for 9 months, and even near the end I was feeling the void. Going back to it was starkly different and I realized how much of a waste of time it is. I do still use Facebook, but only as a photo repository since I do have some semblance of friends and family on there. Though I'm sure they wouldn't bother with me if I wasn't there to bolster their friend-count.


> Beadie: All the guys at the bar, Jimmy, all the girls; they don't show up at your wake. Not because they don't like you. But because, they never knew your last name. Then a month later, someone tells them, "Oh, Jimmy died." "Jimmy who?" "Jimmy the Cop." "Ohhh," they say, "him". And all the people on the job, all those people you spent all the hours in the radio cars with, the guys with their feet up on the desk, tellin' stories, who shorted you on your food runs, who signed your overtime slips. In the end, they're not gonna be there either. Family, that's it. Family, and if you're lucky, one or two friends who are the same as family. That's all the best of us get. Everything else is just...

-- The Wire


Is that really so bad? You moved away so they were no longer in your life. Now you have the opportunity to run into them at a reunion or a bar and authentically catch up. Alternatively, you could have both been passively observing eachother's lives online, and you'd have nothing to talk about.


People have always lost touch. Before and after Facebook. By the way, being "friends" on Facebook does not equal being in touch; it signifies nothing.


But your experience is just anecdotal yes? You (and frankly me as well) have a resistance to the FB addiction, but the numbers of people on the platform are staggering and cannot be ignored.

And China has their own version of FB, what will that be used for in the hands of a totalitarian government?


Staggering numbers, yes, but what percentage of its users suffer from a sort of social media addiction? Or are even active beyond checking in now and then.


It's fine.. in 10 years when Mark leaves FB and starts philanthropy he will be hailed as a tech savior in a similar vein to Bill Gates


I'm going to assume he will never leave FB by choice


Social media companies are cigarette companies. They should be taxed and frowned upon accordingly.

Remember way back when when cigarettes were cool? Well fast-forward 70 years and that’s social media now.


An interesting dual to that is "cigarettes are a social network."


I don't think cigarettes are cool. I also don't think cigarettes are uncool. They way it seems to be generally thought of in northern europe is that it's just something some people do and others don't. Sure, I don't smoke near to a non-smoker, because that's a nice thing to do, but a non-smoker also doesn't tell me I should quit smoking, because that's also a nice thing to do. Cigarettes are nothing, but taking a walk when you're standing still, albeit an unhealthy walk.


Think of it as a reverse insurance policy: investing in your future ill-health.


In some ways they are, though I'd mostly attribute that quality to Facebook. Taxing wouldn't do a thing, but creating more awareness around how destructive Facebook is might help more people think twice about using it.

Then again, that might not even be necessary. I think Facebook is going to be in serious trouble within the next 3 to 5 years. Instagram might be fine, but Facebook as a platform is definitely not forever, and it doesn't seem like anyone is really trying to replicate it.


That's a very hyperbolic statement. Facebook still has merit as a way to organize and communicate with your social group, even if there are some negatives. For cigarettes, I don't know what positives people can claim with a straight face. That you get to go outside at work for a smoke break?


The analogy works surprisingly well.

I really wish I didn't have to breath the Facebook's (and Google's) secondhand smoke every time when I interact with other people (or websites). Just like smoking, putting a "like" button on your website or using any of their services to chat with someone inflicts causes "secondhand" damage on people that choose to people that chose not to "inhale".

> I don't know what positives

Nicotine is a drug. It should be obvious that some people enjoy its effects and/or find it useful. The tolerance effect may reduce those benefits for some (most?) people, but that doesn't change that it had (or continues to have) positive effects.

> claim with a straight face

Maybe you should ask the doctors at the Harvard Medical School[1] et al about the benefits nicotine seems to have for several mental health issues? Now that we are finally moving oast the taboos on any nicotine-related research, these discoveries might lead to entirely new types of medication.

[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Nicotine_I... (paywall - google cache bypass: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:t8ekKU... )


70 years ago no one viewed cigarettes in the negative.


And the scarier quote is this one: "Because, you know the [Warren Buffett] expression about compound interest. ... [G]ive us billionaires an extra hundred years and you'll know what ... wealth disparity looks like."

Having a large ranch of data cows is one of the ways of getting there.


Another saying is "Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations", said to come from a Lancashire proverb, “three generations atween a clog and clog.”

https://www.corpmagazine.com/shirt-sleeves-to-shirt-sleeves-...


It's worth noting that a hundred years ago, people were saying that about Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie. Today the phenomena is exactly the same but the people are different.

Compound interest only works if you can maintain your returns without going negative. Even ignoring death & family members, the world changes around you and your mental models become outdated. A hundred years ago, investing in steel, oil, and automobiles was a sure path to riches. Now, not so much.


Yeah, no. Money tends to stay around.

https://qz.com/694340/the-richest-families-in-florence-in-14...

The Rockefellers are still the 24th-richest family in the US: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2016/06/29/billion-...

Sure, it takes work keeping up - the Vanderbilts are a great example of what not to do - but money does usually beget money.

Carnegie is, I think, the most interesting example: He gave away almost all his money. His belief was summed up with "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced".

The Carnegie Corporation (a foundation), however, held on to the money neatly - their current endowment is $3 bln.


24th richest with $11B spread across 174 surviving heirs doesn't seem all that rich to me. That averages out to about $60M/heir, which is about what you get for selling a medium-sized technology company with cofounders & investors, or a relatively small one you own yourself, or owning 0.01% of Facebook or Google (roughly first 50-100 employees, if my equity experience with other startups is any guide).


With $60m you can live a very nice lifestyle without ever having to work a day in your life. I think that's pretty much the definition of rich.

Just because you can sell a company for that much money doesn't mean it's not a lot of money


$60M, invested well, will last several generations. Hell, if you aren't too lavish, you can retire on less than $5M and still pass financial independence to a (single) heir.

As a sibling poster said, that's a pretty sweet deal in exchange for... nothing aside from the luck of being born to the right family.


$60m in personal wealth is objectively a lot of money, especially if all you had to do was inherit it.


The recent Appleby disclosures (aka "Paradise papers") had an interesting pitch for wealthy clients that explained that often third generation offspring were the point where they no longer understood how the wealth was created and things started dissipating. What Sean was alluding to was life extension technologies that would allow the original creator of the wealth to hang around for much longer periods of time.

Many dystopian novels have explored that concept where at the point people can be kept alive indefinitely the moving around of wealth stops. Anybody not in the 'club' at that point is doomed to fight for fewer and fewer available resources. I personally don't feel that is the most accurate prediction of what will happen when billionaires become immortal but I recognize it as a possibility.


Yeah, I think it's an interesting thought experiment for what would happen if billionaires never died and the same person who made the money in the first place was allowed to manage it in perpetuity. Would the same skills that put them on top of the heap in the first place keep them there? Or would they get rusty and decline, even without the specter of death?

I'm more inclined towards the second, simply because even if the rich don't change, the world around them does. Joy's Law: "No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else." In my view, most of the rich got there because they had mental models that were particularly well-adapted to the times they lived in, and life circumstances that let them capitalize on the opportunities that this let them see before anyone else.

I've noticed that even in my relatively short life (I'm mid-30s), a lot of my mental models have already become outdated. When I started my career, desktop apps reigned supreme, you shouldn't even bother competing with Microsoft, and the richness and responsiveness of your UI determined how many customers you got (well, that and having a Windows version that was all of those things). By the time I graduated from college, this mental model was already out-of-date - and the people who recognized it was out-of-date, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerburg and Jeff Bezos, are now literally among the richest people on Earth.

I can only imagine how out-of-date someone's mental model would be after 1000 years of being on top of the world. Could you imagine putting Charlemagne into the modern world? He'd be dumber than the most idiotic teenager.


I don't think that this leap of efficiency in "exploiting human psychology" is anything different from propaganda/marketing leaps of previous aeons. Reading the books of the past, they felt equally exploitative and novel back then.

We've coped with that, our descendants will cope with social networks we've created, as well. Attention management and rapid critical thinking would become as crucial mental capacities as IQ and EQ are today.

If, of course, smart people acquiring these skills over the next generations are still going to have descendants and the volume is significant enough, because typical "exploited" subjects are going to, you bet.


Wanted to share something that I think is relevant to this discussion. I'm an avid listener of Rogan's podcast and I found his recent interview [1] with Sebastian Junger very insightful. Junger is a journalist who spent a lot of time with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He talks a lot about how social media makes us asocial and how a lot of people who experienced war and turmoil oddly miss the experience because it brought everyone closer together and gave everyone purpose, much like what used to happen when societies were tribal. It's a long interview but I would highly recommend giving it a listen.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iurXFfNriyg


Hereis a great talk by Simon Sinek on how these dopamine hits and how technology are affecting the millennial generation

https://youtu.be/hER0Qp6QJNU


Good one


Name recognition is not important in Presidential elections anymore as a way to predict who will win. In the days of massive social media, all candidates have name recognition.


"Because I'm a billionaire, I'm going to have access to better health care so ... I'm going to be like 160 and I'm going to be part of this, like, class of immortal overlords."

Not really an 'immortal overload' but closer to a vampire seeing all of your friends & family pass away while you never age and only those that you decide to keep are allowed to continue living until they arent.


> exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with

The hubris! Napster wasn't his idea or tech, Facebook wasn't his idea or tech. This man is the most undeservedly rewarded person in tech history. The commentary that we're dissecting here is tepid and late.


Sean Parker has a knack for making billions of dollars off of unethical behavior.


1) It's not just children's brains.

2) That said, when parents use technology as a pacifier, baby sitter, etc. why is that acceptable?

3) Let's say Parker is correct. What are the long term implications? Is The Matrix closer than we hope?


This guy just comes off as really full of himself. With the amount of money and success he has had he can be that all he wants, he earned it I guess. But he still comes off as a pompous bitch.


"Make them drop their "brains." It's cleaner."


Setting aside addictiveness, it’s way too spammy, trying to get you to do work to juice some PM’s engagement #s. Deleted my acct.


Then spend the billions you made off fb taking it down, Sean.


I think cancer immunotherapy research is a far better use of his money than "taking down" a social network (with what, guns?)

I've got plenty of critical things to say about social panopticons, but perspective, please.


"Because I'm a billionaire, I'm going to have access to better health care so ... I'm going to be like 160 and I'm going to be part of this, like, class of immortal overlords. [Laughter] Because, you know the [Warren Buffett] expression about compound interest. ... [G]ive us billionaires an extra hundred years and you'll know what ... wealth disparity looks like."

After Peter Thiel's blood thing, and quotes like this, I think the French were a little too hard on Marie Antoinette.


> I think the French were a little too hard on Marie Antoinette

If you're referring to the "why can't they eat cake?" thing, she didn't actually say that.

I believe there was a completely unrelated girl around the same time who said something more like "why can't they eat brioche?", but that alluded to a custom of baking brioche loaves with a knobbly bit on top which people would tear off and give away, so the question had the meaning of "why can't the poor rely on private charity rather than state support?"

Still not the most endearing line imaginable, but nowhere near as dumb as is usually supposed.


I think this was intended to be ironic? Thought it’s funny.


Ironic? He's just perceptive and doesn't fool himself.

He sees what he and his friends are doing as potentially immoral and, by telling us, his conscience is asking us to stop him and his friends. At the same time, he's gloating about getting away with it and profiting handsomely. He believes he can't be stopped -- even if he tells us all about what they will do.

He won't stop by himself. It's in his self-interest. He enjoys the power and the technological challenge.


If only someone would stop him!

Not holding my breath though. Years from now, he and Thiel will probably be chilling in their dr. evil compounds in new zealand while the rest of us are fighting it out over scraps in apocalypto-shanty-town USA.


I have no hope as well. It's the status quo.


It seems to me he's just laughing at how absurd everything has become. He suggests as much quite directly by stating "he has become something of a conscientious objector on social media." The same is no less true of his comments on our economy. I mean what would you want the guy to do? He has donated a lot of money relative to his net worth on things that all are helping to improve society for everybody.

The only thing that seems to make people angrier than politispeak, is honesty!


I don't know about Sean, but if it just dawned on me one day that my $2.5B was dirty money, my new full-time job would be undoing the damage.

Parker is a smart guy. If he were even half-way serious about what he was saying, he would be doing something a hell of a lot more effective than tweeting "conscientiously" and donating 10% to medical research.


From this other quote and the way he delivered it, I think he is a sociopath, and the longevity quote is only half joking.

"The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."


I agree that the longevity quote is only half joking, but I didn't find it funny at all.

I disagree that he's a sociopath (sociopath wouldn't disclose this information). I think he's a geek who got so caught up with what he was working on that he lost sight that it was very immoral until much later (and perhaps too late).

An important lesson for us all.


A sociopath would certainly fake remorse at some dog and pony show if it served a purpose. They do it all the time.


Yeah, you're right. I was wrong.


A sociopath wouldn't be open about what the harm they did because they don't care to help others heal.

He talks about it because he feels guilt but knows he won't be punished.

He understood it was immoral. He still did it, because morality doesn't have the power to stop actions. Now he feels guilt for doing evil. But at least now he's ultra-rich and powerful. He understood what he was trying to achieve.


How does 'fessing up long after you've been caught red-handed "help others heal"?


Because it acknowledges their trauma as real and it acknowledges that they caused it.

(talking about sociopaths, not Sean Parker)


"The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

All of the recent social media handwringing looks more like dismay over alt-right shitposters co-opting their psyops weapon than a moral awakening.


does beyonce exploit human psychology to make addictive music?

does j.k. rowling exploit human psychology to make addictive novels?

does steven spielberg exploit human psychology to make addictive films?

could downvoters explain why it's evil for facebook to present interesting content but not for the individuals above or publishers like the NY Times, who tweak headlines and article content?


This comment is pretty disingenuous. It's one thing to create a compelling piece of art; it's another thing entirely to create a platform with no real intention beyond sucking in eyeballs for advertisers.


facebook allows people to connect and communicate with friends across the world. profiting from ads is one intent, but it feels biased to say it is the only real intention.


Facebook cares about EARNINGS, every quarter. The same thing that made Sean Parker super rich. Not "exploiting human psychology" isn't in their 10k report or mission statement. Yeah, they care about the world being connected or whatever, so they can serve ads.




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