Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it.

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But Richardson isn’t a bystander reckoning with the ills of technology: She was one of the 13 original employees working at Instagram in 2012 when Facebook bought the viral photo-sharing app for $1 billion. She and four others from that small group now say the sense of intimacy, artistry and discovery that defined early Instagram and led to its success has given way to a celebrity-driven marketplace that is engineered to sap users’ time and attention at the cost of their well-being.

“In the early days, you felt your post was seen by people who cared about you and that you cared about,” said Richardson, who left Instagram in 2014 and later founded a start-up. “That feeling is completely gone for me now.”

Even in Silicon Valley, where it’s common to hear start-up workers become frustrated with management after an acquisition, the disillusionment of the early Instagram employees is striking: People seldom swear off or criticize the product they built, particularly when it has enjoyed such remarkable success. Instagram reached 1 billion users this year.

‘Never get high on your own supply’ – why social media bosses don’t use social media

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I used to look at the heads of the social networks and get annoyed that they didn’t understand their own sites. Regular users encounter bugs, abuse or bad design decisions that the executives could never understand without using the sites themselves. How, I would wonder, could they build the best service possible if they didn’t use their networks like normal people?

Now, I wonder something else: what do they know that we don’t?

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, broke the omertà in October last year, telling a conference in Philadelphia that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to social media.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments,” he said.