If Facebook Didn’t Exist…

Here’s a crazy thought: if Facebook didn’t exist would the world be a more peaceful, empathetic place?

How much real-world violence would never have happened if Facebook didn’t exist? One of the people I’ve asked is Joshua Geltzer, a former White House counterterrorism official who is now teaching at Georgetown Law. In counterterrorism circles, he told me, people are fond of pointing out how good the United States has been at keeping terrorists out since 9/11. That’s wrong, he said. In fact, “terrorists are entering every single day, every single hour, every single minute” through Facebook.

Adrienne LaFrance, Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine

Imagine a world without Facebook, also WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and every other popular social media platform. If these apps didn’t exist what the hell would most of us be doing on our phones all day?

It’s possible things like distracted driving, continuous partial attention and digital echo-chambers would not even exist if smartphones were just dumb, stripped-down devices —without social media apps — only allowing voice calls.
Our kids might not be suffering from such high levels of anxiety fueled, in part, through things like cyber-bullying on social networks. And it’s questionable whether there would be such a crisis of social and political divisiveness throughout the world.
While bullying and divisiveness have been around long before the Internet, social media coupled with widespread smartphone use have arguably made these things much worse.

Back in 2017 one of Facebook’s former VPs, Chamath Palihapitiya, spoke out and made stunning remarks about the platform he and his ‘user growth’ team of engineers helped create:

“I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” He added, “[There’s] no civil discourse, no cooperation; [only] misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem–this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

One of Facebooks original mottos was: “Move fast and break things” once a sort of a hacker ethos built around the idea of using technology in disruptive and innovative ways — think Uber versus taxis; Amazon versus mom & pop shops. But in Facebook’s case it’s perhaps more like an ongoing social experiment and game of shoot first and ask questions later.