Experts Compare Facebook To Cigarette Company, Warn of Health Risks

Written by Ann Brown

Is using Facebook like being addicted to cigarettes? Well, some tech experts think so and they say there are health risks involved with being an obsessive Facebook user.

It was about a year ago that tech billionaire Marc Benioff first made this observation at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Switzerland.

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Salesforce CEO Benioff told the tech journalist Kara Swisher that Facebook was “the new cigarettes.”

“It’s addictive, it’s not good for you, there’s people trying to get you to use it that even you don’t understand what’s going on,” he said.

Benioff isn’t the only one with this theory.

Recently, Mark Zuckerberg’s former mentor Roger McNamee told Business Insider, “The incentives to manipulate attention are all about preying on the weakest elements of human psychology.”

Now McNamee and Jim Steyer, the founder of Common Sense Media, are pushing for governmental regulation and have even suggested a breakup of Facebook.

tech health risks

“We believe there are huge issues around addiction, attention, and distraction caused by social-media platforms,” Steyer told Business Insider. “Last year was a tipping-point moment in the relationship between tech and global society.                           

Benioff has continued his call to make changes, saying social media should be treated as a health issue like tobacco and sugar.

“I think that you do it exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry. Here’s a product: Cigarettes. They’re addictive, they’re not good for you,” Benioff told CNBC’s Squawk Alley. “I think that for sure, technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and that product designers are working to make those products more addictive and we need to rein that back.”                                           

For its part, Facebook said it is making changes. “CEO Mark Zuckerberg has resolved to fix the issues with Facebook this year and significantly refocused the customer experience away from divisive news,” CNBC reported.

Doctors too fear the effects of Facebook on users’ health.

“It can become addictive. Think society’s most common addictive substances are coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol? Think again. The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) includes a new diagnosis that has stirred controversy: a series of items gauging internet addiction. Since then, Facebook addiction has gathered attention from both popular media and empirical journals, leading to the creation of a Facebook addiction scale. To explore the seriousness of this addiction, Hofmann and colleagues (2012) randomly texted participants over the course of a week to ask what they most desired at that particular moment. They found that among their participants, social media use was craved even more than tobacco and alcohol,” Psychology Today reported.

So, the question begs: Is it as hard to quit Facebook as it is to stop smoking?

About Ann Brown

Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence,, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.