What if a Healthier Facebook Is Just … Instagram?

For the past several years, Facebook has been conducting what amounts to an A/B test on human society, using two different social media apps.

The first app in Facebook’s test has a maximalist design: It allows users to post lengthy status updates, with links to news articles, photos, videos and more. The app is designed as a giant megaphone, with an emphasis on public sharing and an algorithmic feed capable of sending posts rocketing around the world in seconds.

The second app in the test is more minimalist, designed for intimate sharing rather than viral broadcasting. Users of this app, many of whom have private accounts with modest followings, can post photos or videos, but external links do not work and there is no re-share button, making it harder for users to amplify one another’s posts.

The results of this test have been stark. The first app, Facebook, turned into a huge and unmanageable behemoth that swallowed the media industry, was exploited by hostile foreign actors, empowered autocrats, created the conditions for a global fake news epidemic and ultimately became a giant headache for its creators.

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