Social Media Is ‘Cancer of Our Time,’ LA Times Owner Says

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong voices his concerns about social media’s “very dangerous” repercussions

Patrick Soon-Shiong
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New LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong didn’t hold back when asked about social media on Wednesday, saying it could have “dangerous” long-term societal ramifications.

“The short attention span we [are] now creating within this millennium is actually very dangerous,” Soon-Shiong told CNBC. “It’s the unintended consequences of social media. And I said this is the cancer of our time, and social media is a form of metastasis of news. We need to change that paradigm.”

Soon-Shiong echoed growing concerns over the impact that tech staples like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have on our mental well-being. Tristan Harris, a former Google engineer turned Silicon Valley critic, warned of the “unnatural social validation” users get from the dopamine rush of a “like” or “share.” The rush ends up rewiring the brain and leads to users being addicted to their screens.

“It’s not really fair,” Harris told TheWrap earlier this year. “Most people don’t even realize behind the screens are supercomputers that are calculating which video to notify you that was just published that is most likely to make you stay and watch another one, or which item in the news feed to show you. This is a totally unique situation in history.”

After buying the Times in June, Soon-Shiong has invested in new reporter positions and moved its headquarters from downtown Los Angeles to El Segundo. When asked about Facebook — a platform many publishers have complained about, despite its necessity — Soon-Shiong called it an ad-focused business that “cannot differentiate” between “so-called fake news,” “real news” and “opinion news.”