DLD All Stars
25/02/2021

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: "Networks are like junk food for the brain"

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Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Co: never before have apps and social networks been as popular as during the current Covid-19 pandemic. They serve as both a pastime and a source of information. But does this additional exchange also offer added value? At Burda’s online festival DLD All Stars, experts from various fields discussed how user behaviour on social media has changed and will continue to change in the future.

Heading in the wrong direction

It has been about six months since Netflix has released the documentary "The Social Dilemma", which has reached about 100 million viewers worldwide by now. The film shows the negative influences social media can have on our society and how large companies leverage these platforms to manipulate their users. One of the main protagonists of the documentary is Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology and former Google employee, who shares his experiences on the global corporation. After speaking at the DLD conference in Munich last January, he has entered the virtual DLD All Stars stage this year. Harris is convinced that social media platforms primarily pursue a business model that plays with human needs instead of disseminating knowledge and information. Significant changes need to happen in this area because "the more we use social media, the worse our stereotypes get," Harris said. It is important to shift the use of technology more towards embracing and emphasizing the positive aspects of our society.

No truth without facts

Maria Ressa, founder of the government-critical news portal Rappler, who is considered a role model for journalists worldwide, also addressed the audience on the virtual DLD All Stars stage with an urgent appeal: "What the world needs now? Facts! If there are no facts, there is no truth." Technology and social media, she said, often mix this and are thus supporting the spread of fake news:


"Lies combined with anger and hate spread faster than facts. Social media platforms like Facebook, the world’s largest distributor of news, are often biased against facts and quality journalism."

Maria Ressa, founder of the news portal Rappler


According to the investigative journalist, social media platforms have a clear responsibility towards users and often fail to live up to it.

Junk food for the mind

When searching for the truth, the first click often leads to Wikipedia. DLD All Stars speaker Jimmy Wales is one of the founders of the online encyclopedia, which turns 20 this year. At a time like this, when social media networks are flooded with fake news, Wikipedia is needed more than ever as a trustworthy source on the internet. It is important to realise that technologies can lead to addiction.


"Networks like Facebook and Twitter are like junk food for the mind".

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia


You can eat junk food once in a while, but if you rely exclusively on it, it becomes harmful. Wales' advice: Reduce the use of social media – and those who fail to do that should delete their accounts completely. However, the internet entrepreneur also sees the positive aspects of social media platforms especially during the Covid-19 pandemic: It has never been easier to stay in touch with friends and family around the globe and to keep each other updated.

All DLD All Stars sessions can be viewed here. More information on the virtual festival presentations can be found here.

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“The Social Dilemma” star Tristan Harris was one of the experts who spoke about social networks at DLD All Stars (c) DLD

Filipino investigative journalist Maria Ressa spoke about the lack of truth in social media (c) DLD

“Networks like Facebook and Twitter are like junk food for the brain,” says Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in conversation with DLD Chairman Yossi Vardi (c) DLD

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