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Fmr. Pinterest President on social media addiction: 'We've got a really serious health issue on our hands'

Tim Kendall, founder and CEO of Moment, joins The Final Round to discuss his app, which helps address social media addiction, and how social media is impacting users.

Transcripción del video

MYLES UDLAND: I remember a time, 2018, 2019, there was a lot of concern about how much time we're spending in front of our phones or devices. And then the pandemic happened, then it seemed that that all kind of went out the window, and no longer were we talking about addiction to social media and our devices and so on. But our next guest is still focused on this issue.

We're joined now by Tim Kendall, he's the founder and CEO of an app called Moment, trying to break us of what I think, Tim, we can all agree as a society-wide addiction to our phones. So I guess, tell us a little bit about the process of getting to this app, you know, for yourself. Because you worked at Facebook, you worked at Pinterest, you've seen what these companies are trying to do. And I think that sounds like you don't think the results are any good.

TIM KENDALL: Well, I think, fundamentally, a lot of these services, particularly the Facebooks, the YouTubes, the Twitters of the world, I think they're fundamentally addictive products. I think when you have a business model that's predicated on getting more and more people to spend more and more time, your only path is to create algorithms that basically suck you in for longer periods of time. And we're seeing that in spades.

And the interesting thing about artificial intelligence is that it gets better and better every year. Sometimes I tell people, god, I mean, can you imagine if opiates got twice as addictive every 12 months? It would be a crisis, it'd be a health epidemic. And that's-- I believe that's what we're going to see with social media.

There's a new film out called "The Social Dilemma" that's the number one film on Netflix in India, it's number four in the US. It just came out last week. And it paints a very clear picture and a dire picture of the addictiveness of these services. In particular, the impact-- probably, the most stark data in that film is the impact on teenage girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Basically, in the last five years, we've seen suicide rates triple in that cohort and the incidence of hospitalization from self-harm grow up-- grow 5x.

MELODY HAHM: Yeah, Tim--

TIM KENDALL: It's not causality, but we've got a really serious health issue on our hands, in my view.

MELODY HAHM: I think your perspective, Tim, in "The Social Dilemma" was very powerful because you talk about how you had two young children of your own. And that was almost the trigger for you because you found yourself at home. You're supposed to be spending time with your children, and you're browsing Pinterest, right? And at the time, you were president of the company.

Tell me about the way in which we can actually change this, right? I understand that Moment is one avenue, but structurally speaking, as children-- as Myles alluded to, not only during the pandemic, but as we are incentivized to continue to post photos and continue to like other people's photos and engage, what is the real practical solution here?

TIM KENDALL: I think the real practical solution is there's some pretty basic things that you can do that can dramatically change your relation--

MYLES UDLAND: I can hear you.

TIM KENDALL: --if you really are-- if you're really trying to make changes. One is to turn off-- turn off notifications. Turn them all off. They aren't critical, they aren't mission critical. It's always-- it's always funny to tell journalists this because they actually are the only people that have a reasonable claim probably to keep those notifications off.

But for all the non-journalists out there, which is 99% of people, turn off notifications. I think you need to understand your usage. Most people that we survey, we've had 8 million people use Moment in the last couple of years that we've been around, most people think they spend two hours a day on their phone. When we look at the data, it's four and a half. So there's a disconnect between reality and your awareness. So just to--

- One, two, three, four, five.

TIM KENDALL: --unconnecting that and using the apps that are out there can help a lot. And then the thing that I have found that's moved the needle the most for me and actually allowed me to be, I think, a much better parent and a much better partner is setting some limits around when I use my phone. So don't use it at night, or don't use it between 6:00 and 8:00 PM and being really clear about what rooms you don't use your phone and you don't bring your phone into.

So where you sleep, a really good room to just say phones aren't allowed in here. Those basic simple things, easier said than done, can make a really big difference in terms of, I think, people's mental well being. And if you're in a family, just your ability to be present with one another.

DAN ROBERTS: Tim, Dan Roberts here. You mentioned, you know, it's hard to give this advice to journalists. And that's what I was going to ask you about. Now, to expand the question out so it doesn't just apply to our insular community right here on Yahoo Finance, I mean, what about anyone who consumes a lot of news. And I certainly know some people who they aren't in the media like we are, but they're reading news headlines all day.

And especially in 2020, and maybe even before 2020, in many ways, the news cycle has been so negative and so toxic that that's a lot of it, right? You're just seeing more and more upsetting stories. Now, that's not to say you should, you know, blind yourself to upsetting news. If the news is the news, that's the reality. But what would you say to people who want to be kept in the loop, they want to be updated on news, but, you know, sometimes, you gotta unplug? And then, as you mentioned, for us, especially, really hard to justify not checking Twitter all the time.

TIM KENDALL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that, you know, I think it's about limits in the news domain as well, which is to say maybe you should just read, you know, the "New York Times" or CNN one time a day.

DAN ROBERTS: Or Yahoo Finance, Tim. Yahoo Finance.

TIM KENDALL: Or Yahoo Finance, or just Yahoo, right? Like, just go on one time a day. Like, just create some sort of limits for yourself because, you know, news sort of corresponding with social media, it's addictive. And we can find ourselves down the rabbit hole, and two hours later, you know, it's like we've binged on a drug.

We don't feel good about ourselves. We feel kind of hung over, we're glazed over. I mean, it's a real, certainly for me, I'll say, it's a real thing. And so I think the-- I think the limits guideline really does apply for news. I also think there's a balance thing. There are people who have made an effort to showcase good news.

So I do think there are people that we read about and hear about who try to create kind of a balance between, you know, maybe you go on Yahoo Finance for 30 minutes and then you check out the Good News Network for 30 minutes, right? So at least you have this balance between-- because you're going back to the business model point.

Look, bad news generates more attention. And so news just naturally is going to be slanted negatively because it just attracts more of an engaged audience. And so in a sense, our reality gets a little bit skewed by that, by just the fundamental reality of the business model. And I think that as consumers being aware of that and making slight adjustments, maybe it's less toxic for us.

MELODY HAHM: Yeah, Tim, to that point, as I understand it, even at Pinterest during your last couple of years, you tried to implement these sorts of policies in your own life, right? When you held meetings, you didn't let people look at their phones. Of course, it's hard to work from the inside sometimes as well, especially, to your point, if the culture of those tech companies are as such.

Have you been in touch with Ben Silbermann? Are you still in touch with your former boss, Mark Zuckerberg? Do they have the Moment app? Because I know that over the last couple of years, the Silicon Valley community has been the most scared of getting their kids too addicted to their own products that they've created. So tell me about this sort of existential dichotomy here that we're seeing that you experience yourself.

TIM KENDALL: You know, I think if you talk to Silicon Valley execs, I think there are just varying degrees of awareness here. You know, I think Marc Benioff, you know, likened social media to cigarettes. And I don't think that's far off, quite frankly. In terms of what would be the reckoning that happens over the next 10 or 20 years, I think it's going to be probably more like the sugar industry as it related to diabetes, right?

Like, in the 80s, we weren't really clued into that at all. And now we're waking up, and 100 million people have pre-diabetes or diabetes. And they're going to get sick, and a lot of them are going to die, and we're going to pay the bills. I think you will see something similar. I think when it comes to Silicon Valley, I think the spectrum is wide in terms of the degree of awareness among executives.

I think that, particularly in the businesses where the business model is predicated on advertising, which is predicated on getting me to spend more and more time, it's pretty tough, I think, for them to be candid and have that reckoning moment without them having sort of a segue plan. And look, I have sympathy for that pressure that will continue to grow for them to figure out an alternative business that doesn't require addicting the end user.

MYLES UDLAND: All right, really important conversation, really interesting. Tim Kendall, founder and CEO of Moment, thanks so much for joining the show, and keep in touch.

TIM KENDALL: Thank you.