If you ever found yourself compulsively checking your Facebook, know that it may be no coincidence. A former high-ranking employee has now confessed to making the platform very addictive, according to the hearing.
During the hearing on the site's role in radicalizing America by mainstreaming extremism, Facebook’s former head of monetization Tim Kendall compared what Facebook did to big tobacco companies looking to make their product as addictive as possible.
“We sought to mine as much attention as humanly possible,” he said. “We took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset.” And it has gotten worse as the platform now has resulted in the spread of hateful content, Kendall noted.
“The social media services that I and others have built over the past 15 years have served to tear people apart with alarming speed and intensity,” he admitted. “At the very least, we have eroded our collective understanding — at worst, I fear we are pushing ourselves to the brink of a civil war.”
You may be wondering how a simple site managed to get people addicted. It's not a substance after all! Kendall explained how upgrades were made to ensure that Facebook users always came back for more.
“Tobacco companies initially just sought to make nicotine more potent,” he added. “But eventually that wasn’t enough to grow the business as fast as they wanted. And so, they added sugar and menthol to cigarettes so you could hold the smoke in your lungs for longer periods. At Facebook, we added status updates, photo tagging, and likes, which made status and reputation primary and laid the groundwork for a teenage mental health crisis.”
We are still waiting for a reply from Facebook's current representatives on the matter and it's hard to tell whether a simple site could truly create an addiction and subsequent crises. However, considering the platform is currently on trial for mainstreaming extremism, we have to believe there is some truth to Kendall's statements.