Sean Parker: Facebook Founder
Sean Parker became a billionaire partly thanks to his early work as a Facebook founder. Parker, who also founded Napster, was Facebook’s first president. Recently, however, he has harshly criticized the social media platform’s psychological effects, particularly on kids. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” Parker said in an interview at an Axios event in 2017.
Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by
Attorney Matthew Bergman
Who Is Sean Parker?
Sean Parker, who has been called a genius by some news outlets, was something of a prodigy as a child. He began writing code at a young age, interned for Zynga founder Mark Pincus as a teenager, and was recruited by the CIA. Parker skipped college to co-found the game-changing file-sharing application Napster, then joined Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook in 2004, just months after the social media platform launched. According to Zuckerberg, Parker was “pivotal in helping Facebook transform from a college project into a real company.”
When Did Sean Parker Leave Facebook?
Sean Parker is no longer part of Facebook. In 2005, the police discovered cocaine at a vacation home that Parker had rented with friends. Because he had signed the rental agreement, Parker was arrested, but the police did not have enough evidence to charge him. Still, to appease Facebook investor concerns, Parker stepped down from his position at Facebook shortly after his arrest.
How Much is Sean Parker Worth?
Because of his early work with Facebook, Parker had an ownership interest in the company from its beginning. Even after he left Facebook in 2005, Parker retained his stake in the company. As Facebook has grown, so has Parker’s wealth. Parker is now worth an estimated $2.8 billion, largely thanks to Facebook’s astronomical growth.
What Did Sean Parker Do After Facebook?
After Facebook, Sean Parker continued to be a social media visionary, anticipating needs and developments well before others. As Shervin Pishevar of Menlo Ventures put it, “Parker has access to trends and signals that are invisible to many people. For him it’s like hearing a dog whistle.” Indeed, Parker went on to back Spotify well before its widespread adoption. The streaming music service is now one of the most successful.
More recently, Parker has focused his efforts on philanthropy and founded the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in 2016. The institute’s goal is to connect the leading immunologists with cancer centers. Parker also wishes to elevate the work of scientists and researchers, whom he believes should be celebrities in the same vein as actors and musicians
Sean Parker's Interview With Axios
In 2017, Sean Parker attended an Axios event in Philadelphia regarding cancer innovation. While there, he gave an interview with Axios and spoke candidly about Facebook. His remarks made some huge waves around the internet.
In his interview, Parker confirmed that Facebook’s goal from the beginning was to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.” To reach that goal, says Parker, Facebook intentionally “exploit[s] a vulnerability in human psychology.” He explained how getting likes and comments on Facebook can give a person a small dopamine hit.
Parker now decries the effects of Facebook on its billions of users. He says Facebook “literally changes your relationship with society, with each other.” Perhaps even more alarming, Parker — now a parent himself — went on to say, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
Is Sean Parker Right About Facebook?
Sean Parker’s statements about Facebook are alarming, especially given his financial stake in the company. His allegations seem to go against his own self-interest, but they are worth looking into further. Indeed, psychologists and scientific researchers have confirmed Parker’s concerns.
Psychologists React to Sean Parker’s Statements
Psychologists and therapists across the country agree with Sean Parker’s concerns about Facebook’s design and its impact on mental health. According to Dr. Billie Blair, the President and CEO of Change Strategists, “Sean Parker is correct – Facebook preys on individuals’ feelings of inadequacy/vulnerability.”
Lynn Zakeri, a clinical therapist in the Chicago area, sees it in her practice. “I work with a lot of ages, but [Facebook’s] ‘like’ response impacts everyone,” she told counseling practice Thriveworks. In her experience, she has seen that the good feelings and validation her patients get from likes keep them addicted to the platform.
Karen North, a social media psychologist at the University of Southern California, also agreed with Sean Parker. “The pleasure sensors and chemicals in the brain get triggered” when using social media, North explained, pointing out that the only way social media platforms can make a profit is by making their sites addictive.
Research Confirms Sean Parker’s Facebook Concerns
Sean Parker’s concerns about social media’s effect on children are not unfounded. Countless kids have a serious addiction to social media. Numerous scientific studies have looked into social media’s effects on the mental health of kids and teenagers, including the following issues:
- Poor body image. Researchers have found that time spent on social media can exacerbate poor body image. For example, viewing fitness inspiration images on social media leads to a more negative body image, which has been linked to depression in teens.
- Depression. Teens who spend a significant period of time on social media are often depressed. Researchers believe that the consequences of heavy social media use — including negative body image, less physical activity, and disruption in teens’ social relationships — can contribute to depression.
- Eating disorders. In a study conducted in Australia and New Zealand, more than half of teenage girls with a social media account had disordered eating. In another study, researchers found that almost half of Instagram users who followed accounts specializing in health foods had symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
- Loneliness. Heavy social media use is often associated with feelings of loneliness in teens. Kids who are already experiencing feelings of loneliness often feel worse after they use social media. Loneliness is also associated with other mental health issues in teens, including low self-esteem, depression, decreased productivity, and even suicide.
- Low self-esteem. Comparison with others has long been a pitfall for teens’ mental health, but social media has exponentially increased the opportunities for teens to compare themselves negatively to others. Unfortunately, social media platforms tend to attract teens with lower self-esteem in the first place.
- Suicide. Teen suicide has been on a dramatic rise since social media use became widespread among teens. From 2007 to 2015, the suicide rate for boys increased by 31 percent. Tragically, the suicide rate among teenage girls hit a 40-year high in 2015. Researchers who study teen suicide have found a link between suicide and social media use.
Legal Actions to Hold Social Media Companies Accountable
Families that have lost a child to suicide following years of social media addiction are standing up to Facebook in court. Kids as young as 11-year-old Selena Rodriguez have taken their own lives. These stories are tragic, and the impacted families want to hold companies such as Facebook — who prioritize profits over lives — accountable while helping to prevent similar tragedies.
Social Media's Effects on Your Child
If you believe your child has been harmed by social media, you can fight back. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions
For individuals and children who have been
We only handle cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that we are paid a portion of any recovery obtained in the case and you do not owe us any attorneys’ fees if the lawsuit does not result in a recovery.
Every case is unique. Our attorneys will work with your family to evaluate your potential case and help you evaluate whether filing a lawsuit or other legal proceeding is in your family’s best interest. Generally speaking, the types of cases we handle involve serious mental health effects, including attempted or completed suicide, eating disorders, inpatient mental health treatment, or sexual trafficking/exploitation that was caused by or contributed to through addictive or problematic social media use by teens and young adults.
We are a law firm based near Seattle, WA comprised of lawyers who have spent their entire careers representing victims who have been harmed by dangerous products. We are also parents. Shocked and troubled by the recent revelations about the harm caused to teens and young adults by social media platforms, which powerful technology companies have designed to be highly addictive, Social Media Victims Law Center was launched specifically to help families and children who have suffered serious mental harm or exploitation through social media use to obtain justice.
Matthew P. Bergman