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Understanding the Problems at Facebook

Frances Haugen recently whistleblew on Facebook, producing documents that show the company was putting its "astronomical profits" above the wellbeing of people. The world is in a tizz about this. I believe Dooyeweerd's aspects can cast some light onto this, teasing out some of the complexity by separating out different kinds of issues.

This page is an example of how to understand the harm that a large company - or indeed any social entity - can do.

Aspect Dysfunction in the aspect Repercussions meaningful in this aspect
Quantitative (Facebook and its platforms are used by more than a quarter of the world's population ...)

(... Worldwide)

(Fast flow of attitudes as well as information to vast numbers of people. This is not necessarily a dysfunction.)

(to do with energy, fields, mass)
(Climate change emissions from the massive electric power used to keep Facebook and its platforms running.) (Dysfunction in biotic)
Note: Argualby, the first four aspects function without dysfunction. Here, I include the above in those four aspects as 'background' information for the rest, in which dysfunction occurs.
(to do with life functions)
(This aspect founds later aspect, and so functioning there can have repercussions here.)

1. Changes in body functioning from psychical functioning, e.g. endorphin release.

2. Suicide (actually result of multi-aspectual functioning, not least the pistic feeling of hopelessness)

(to do with sense, feeling, emotion)
1. Undue stimulation of 'feel-good'.

2. Encouraging anger, spite, put-downs, etc. (though these are secondarily of other aspects)

1. Addiction. If not addiction, then over-use and tiredness.

2. Depression. Suicide (a multi-aspectual thing, but founded in the biotic).

(to do with distinguishing )
Separation of self from world. Prone to produce envy, self-importance, resentment (repercussions in other aspects)
(to do with shaping, achievement: technology, history)
Use of Artificial Intelligence to implement Human Stupidity
(to do with symbol-signification)
1. Media tend to emphasise the salacious more than the wholesome, because it seems more 'interesting' while the wholesome is dismissed as 'boring'; see Real Life versus Fiction.

2. Fake news

3. Decision by company to not communicate to the public the results of research that shows harm caused to young people.

1. More negative stuff than wholesome stuff gets circulated and is available on Facebook and its associated platforms.

2. Lies circulate widely (which have repercussions in other aspects especially the formative aspect of decision-making)

3. The public, including regulatory authorities, are misled about the dangers from Facebook (which of course has juridical and other repercussions too).

(to do with relationships, roles)
Enmity and antagonism more than friendship and togetherness, especially at the deeper rather than superficial level.
(to do with frugal use of resources)
Too much time spend on Facebook.
(to do with harmony, delight, fun, style)
Fashionability has too strong an hold on people. People are bullied and enslaved (a Juridical repercussion).

"When poisons become fashionable they do not cease to kill." [C.S. Lewis]

(to do with due, appropriateness)
Lack of accountability by massive company. Injustice and inappropriateness multiply without retribution.
(to do with self-giving love)
Self-centred attitude by company, its directors and founder.

2. The seemingly innocent 'like' button reinforces self-centredness. (a) Company gathers loads of data about individuals, which it uses for its own ends. (b) It reinforces "I want popularity" among users.

1, 2. "Student prank" harms others, and founder is unconcerned. See below. This attitude influences the design (e.g. the Like button). It spreads to, and reinforces in, users.

(Note: Facebook can also be used for good, as a tool for sharing, if users are already so oriented.)

(to do with vision, aspiration, commitment, belief)
1. Fundamental belief: "fun for me". This was what drove Mark Zuckerberg to build Facematch, the forerunner of Facebook. See below.

2. Prioritising "astronomical profits" over the wellbeing of others.

1, 2. Little sense of responsibility at root of the company; only adopted when imposed from outside.


When he was a student, Mark Zuckerberg managed to get hold of the photographs of all the female students at the university. As a piece of fun, he wrote the Facematch software, which was online at the university. For those who logged into it, Facematch would put up randomly-selected pairs of female students and ask which is prettier or more attractive. On receiving an answer, it would count those in a database, and build up a 'league table' of the perceived attractiveness of female students.

It was "only a bit of fun", a "student prank". But, as far as I have heard, it destroyed the lives of some of the female students, who happened to have low scores, with the result that male students would shun them - which reduced their self-esteem even further. (Facematch showed only external attractiveness at the time of the photo was taken, not the personality.)

A student prank - and as far as I know, Mark Zuckerberg has never apologised for this, and he carried that attitude over into the design of Facebook.

This is the 'vision', the pistic functioning, at the very root of the whole company from its beginning. It is an idolatrous dysfunction. Since the pistic aspect is the terminal one, dysfunction there distorts the functioning in most earlier aspects, leading to dysfunction there. That is what this page is about.


Thanks to Chris Gousmett, Paulo Ribiero, Henk Geertsema, David Hanson for many helpful suggestions, by which many empty cells were filled.

This page, "", is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments are welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext in the style of classic HTML.

You may use this material subject to conditions. Compiled by Andrew Basden.

Created: 25 October 2021 Last updated: 26 October 2021 added suggestions from various people.