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My unsolicited advice for this year’s graduates is simple: Move slow and fix things.
In 2014, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg coined the phrase, “move fast and break things” to describe the mentality of our new 20-something tech-sector corporate leaders who believed all human knowledge gained over the centuries had been made obsolete by quantum computing.
“The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough,” Zuckerberg explained.
He expounded on the idea during a college lecture. “A lot of times people are just, like, too careful,” he said. “I think it’s more useful to, like, make things happen and then, like, apologize later.”
Zuckerberg set out to create a website where people could share baby photos and pictures from their vacations. In moving fast to accomplish that goal, he helped to break the traditional news media in our country.
Before Facebook, the process for reporting the news had been slow and careful. Sources had to be named and the information they provided had to be verified. Reporters would turn their stories in to editors, who would often turn them right back, demanding another source or more thorough documentation.
Facebook did away with all of that. They created a media alternative where the only thing that matters is speed. And, they made it easy for people to find stories that would confirm, and never challenge, their belief system. That has accelerated the political divide in our country that grows deeper by the day.
Facebook and other online news sites don’t face the same consequences for sloppy or biased reporting as traditional media. The Communications Decency Act of 1996 includes a provision that shields them from libel laws, as long as the inaccurate content they post came from someplace else.
Facebook is just one example of how our lives have been turned upside down by technology. Face-to-face interactions have been replaced by Zoom meetings. Instead of meeting their potential spouse at work or social gatherings, young adults scroll through photos and make their choices based solely on physical appearance.
We are just beginning to understand the mental health consequences of teens who are addicted to social media. A study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that teens who use social media more than three hours a day are at greater risk for mental health problems.
I recognize that advances in science and technology are helping us live longer and healthier lives. But the changes have come too fast in the last 40 years to sort out the good from the bad.
We must continue learning and advancing. But we should stop breaking things.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org