Part of Facebook’s success was the lock-in effect of the users. Now, CEO Mark Zuckerberg confronted with his own version of the phenomenon.
What is going on in the head of Mark Zuckerberg? In view of the crucial role that Facebook plays in the dramatic redistribution of political maps and the reinforcement of polarized positions, does he sometimes feel uncomfortable? Is he always convinced that the company he founded actually fulfills his own slogan “Making the world more open and connected”? Does the 32-year-old at night perhaps wonder about the extent to which the changes that his social network triggers worsen the conditions rather than improve them?
An honest answer to these questions is known only to Zuckerberg himself. But once hypothesized that the creator of the probably most influential company of all times at least the possibility that the mechanisms of his platform contribute to the erosion of Western democracies – it would tragically not play any role. For Zuckerberg there was no way to stop this development. Although, thanks to more than 60% of the voting rights, he can almost dictate what is happening at the company – as long as it benefits the company.
Polarization Is For Facebook A Feature, Not A Bug
Facebook’s business model is based on the monetization of user attention. The company must ensure that users spend as much time on Facebook as they scroll through the newsfeed forever, and that they can find a lot of content that keeps them happy. This is particularly useful through emotional messages. This recipe, however, is also the driving force of the echocomoles, which divide societies, provoke memory, and animate the information world that confirms one’s own image of the world.
The result is a dynamic that is constantly intensifying itself, in which the like-minded people are welded together. At the same time, the members of ideologically homogenized groups find less and less connecting points with different thinking.
As a profit-oriented company, which feels committed to its shareholders in the first place, there is no way for Facebook to curb possible negative social impacts of its own work without the business suffering. So the company launches well-intentioned initiatives to strengthen journalism or to enable the identification of false alarms by means of external partners. However, the actual causes of the problem are not repaired. They are systemic. As long as the newsfeed is the central element of Facebook and must constantly spill personalized content on the world scene, and as long as billions of people consume it, the split and self-segregation of representatives of different ideologies and ideals will intensify rather than diminish.
Despite His Power, Zuckerberg Is Powerless
Mark Zuckerberg is the victim of the phenomenon that has so far benefited the social network: the famous lock-in effect. For users this means that they can not leave a platform, even if they want to, because of the negative effects of the exit would be greater for them than if they were reluctant to remain. Zuckerberg’s very own lock-in effect now leads to the fact that he can not leave the course Facebook is trapped in, even if he came to the realization that this is no longer justifiable for ethical-moral reasons.
Once again, it is not very likely that Zuckerberg is really in doubt. Presumably, he is fully behind his creation and excludes causalities between worrying social and political trends and his platform. Should cognitive dissonance set in, Zuckerberg would always be able to cope with the misery and suffering in the world by means of the charity initiative, led by his wife, which had become possible only through Facebook. However, if Zuckerberg were to regret the development itself, contrary to expectations, this would not change the situation.