Sean Parker Says Facebook Was Designed To Be Addictive

Sean Parker, the billionaire early Facebook investor and Napster founder, says Mark Zuckerberg knowingly created a monster with addictive social media.

Parker, speaking at an Axios event, pulled back the curtain on Facebook’s early days, saying it was designed to consume people.


And all this time everyone thought it was designed for people to consume.


Nope, all the sharing and liking were used like a drug to get people hooked on checking Facebook non-stop. “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible,” said Parker, referring to Facebook’s earliest mission.


“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” Parker said.

What does this mean for traditional marketing channels?

Consider for a minute the other possible advertising and marketing channels that you are currently using. Radio ads, TV campaigns, editorial in magazines, newspaper ads through to billboards and flyers. None of these channels are designed to be addictive. They are designed to simply convey a message. Nothing more, noting less.


Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc are designed to keep you coming back over and over again.


The candid interview wasn’t the first time a Silicon Valley insider had sounded the alarm on the digital dangers of social media and the internet. However, in light of the mass disinformation dump on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and everywhere online during the election, the real-world consequences have become more clear and frightening.


The whole social media experience is designed to deliver pleasure in the form of validation from family, friends and likeminded strangers. Every notification ding, colorful app icon, touchscreen gesture is designed to entice more use.


Parker, speaking at an Axios conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday, talked about how Facebook in particular is engineered for peak compulsivity.


“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology,” Parker told Axios.


Parker has had his ups and downs in the internet age. He created Napster, the music ripping website that almost destroyed the industry before being sued out of existence. Parker then went on to invest in Facebook. He also was the prototypical tech bro, criticized for flaunting wealth.


He once turned a pristine park into a “Lord of the Rings” fantasy wedding that cost millions of dollars. Parker has more recently invested in a cancer research center.


And he sounds a little remorseful about some of the choices made in Facebook’s early years. “The inventors, creators—it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people–understood this consciously. And we did it anyway,” Parker said.