Ever heard of Sean Parker? He’s the guy Justin Timberlake played in The Social Network, the movie about Facebook.
Sean Parker founded Napster, the first major disruptor to the music industry, and he was one of the earliest partners in Facebook. He knows Mark Zuckerberg as well as anyone and was part of building Facebook from the start. He’s a billionaire and leads a cancer research institute now.
The digital media company Axios interviewed Parker yesterday about Facebook and his words are…concerning. Here’s part of the interview:
Now, if understand social media or have thought about it deeply at all, this is not news to you. Most of us who work in social media or have studied it to some extent understand that notifications are like hits of a drug that keep us coming back to these platforms.
Even more concerning than Facebook today is Instagram (which is owned by Facebook). Young people are on Instagram more than Facebook, and Instagram is image-driven, and in the case of many young people, selfie-driven.
Teens and young adults take dozens of selfies looking for just the right one to post. Then, when they post it, they wait to see how many likes they get in the first five minutes, removing the post if it didn’t get as much of a response as they wanted (so as to not be embarrassed). Smartphones, and primarily the social media platforms accessible on them, may very well be destroying a generation because of the clear tie to depression.
We have an incredibly powerful tool at our fingertips in social media. The power is frightening to me, most days, if I’m honest. Every time I hear someone like Parker talk about social media like this, it makes me want to just close up shop, leave social media entirely, and go work in a landscaping business or something, away from the psychological threats of social media platforms.
But, after I calm down and step back from the ledge a bit, I remind myself that, as Christians, our job is not to exploit psychological vulnerabilities, but to use these platforms to share encouraging, biblical messages of hope. It makes me shudder when I think that there are some people who are using Facebook like a drug to enslave people to affirmation or other such vices. May the Lord protect us from such dark motivations.
I think we can use the tools that are depressing people to inject gospel hope.
Let’s use these platforms, despite whatever manipulative origins they may have, to serve and encourage people, rather than exploit their vulnerabilities.