SAN FRANCISCO: The young software engineer who invented Facebook’s iconic “Like” button in 2007 has decided to block all apps on his phone and has spoken out about his concerns that social media notifications are taking over people’s lives.
Now aged 34, Justin Rosenstein has also banned Reddit and Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and has severely limited the amount of time he spends on Facebook.
Speaking to the Guardian, which carried out an in-depth examination of growing concerns in Silicon Valley about the negative psychological effects of social media, he described Facebook Likes, his own invention, as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure”.
“It is very common for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences,” he said.
He expressed alarm that the lure of social media, including apps, is having a detrimental effect on people’s cognitive ability as they adapt to the growth of the attention economy. “Everyone is distracted. All of the time,” he said.
“One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” he said, referring to his fellow 30-somethings who can still recall the days when telephones were plugged into walls.
And Rosenstein is not alone in worrying about where technology is leading humanity. One of his former colleagues at Facebook who helped create the Like feature also confirmed that she has grown disaffected with Facebook Likes and similar feedback loops.
Leah Pearlman, a former Facebook product manager, told the Guardian that she has installed a web browser plug-in to eradicate her Facebook news feed and has hired a social media manager to monitor her Facebook page so she doesn’t have to.
Rosenstein’s intervention comes amid growing medical evidence about the impact of social media on mental wellbeing, such as a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine last year.
Its research disclosed that participants who most frequently checked social media throughout the week had 2.7 times the likelihood of depression.
Meanwhile, the Royal Society for Public Health reported earlier this year that it had studied the impact of social media on almost 1,500 young people in the UK.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat were all found to have a negative effect, prompting the report authors to make a number of recommendations, such as having a pop-up to warn users about heavy usage.
Sourced from the Guardian, UPMC; additional content by WARC staff