The last time I employed the services of psilocybin mushrooms, I recall getting trapped in a seemingly never-ending conversation with a friend about how social media—Facebook, specifically—had made us all addicted to The Loop. "The Loop," our shroomed brains surmised, involved posting some bullshit no one actually cares about on Facebook (and/or Twitter, Instagram, et al.) and refreshing the app until you've received your first act of engagement. If you get no engagement after a few minutes, you delete that shit and try again, thus kicking off a new loop.
Sean Parker, former Facebook president and inspiration behind Justin Timberlake's greatest artistic contribution, has now confirmed that The Loop is not only real, but completely intentional.
Facebook knowingly exploits vulnerabilities in human psychology, the now-only-slightly-less-cool-than-Twitter social network's former president said Wednesday. Parker, co-founder of Napster and the first Facebook president, made a series of cautionary comments to Axios at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. At the core of any social network, Parker explained, is a manipulative dopamine reward system.
"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,'" Parker said. "And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, ... 'We'll get you eventually.'"
Parker added that he didn't fully understand the consequences of his promise at the time, but the subsequent piling up of billions of new Facebook users has brought the fuckery into focus. "It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways," he said. "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
But back to dopamine. From the outset, Parker said, Facebook was hell-bent on consuming as much of each user's "time and conscious attention" as possible. "And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever," Parker said. "And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you ... more likes and comments." The cute nickname for this adorable trap? "Social-validation feedback loop." The loop is not unlike something a hacker would devise, Parker noted, as it's "exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology."
To make sure everyone sees Parker's very important condemnation of everything that's destroying society from the inside out, be sure to share it on Facebook. Wait. Fuck. I would say you could tweet it instead, but Twitter might as well be Facebook after the adoption of a 280-character limit. Maybe LiveJournal? We're so fucked.