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Katherine Losse was Facebook's 51st employee. After earning a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2005, she got a job as a Facebook customer service representative — tasked with answering questions like "What is a poke?" In the course of five years, she became the personal ghostwriter for founder Mark Zuckerberg.
"I witnessed over those five years this huge transformation in how we lead our lives," she tells NPR's Tom Gjelten.
Losse left the company in 2010, partly over concerns about the way social networks were affecting her real-life relationships. She moved to Marfa, Texas, shut down her Facebook profile, and documented her experiences with the company in a book called The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network.
Losse talks about how, for better or for worse, Facebook is changing the way we interact.
On leaving Facebook and deciding to unplug
"I witnessed that so many things were happening over the phone or over the Internet that I felt I almost would prefer to do it in a face-to-face setting, that there were certain kinds of information and experiences that we have that we were losing by doing things always digitally.
"So I thought it was a good time to kind of think about that and think about that balance."
On Facebook posting as performance
"When we post something online, in a way we're sharing information, but we're doing it in a different way. It's a much more performative way because we have sort of an audience. We can't exactly see them. It's almost like we're in a theater, and we're doing things on a stage because they're somewhere else. ...
"It did make us all more self-conscious. So, you know, you always have this question of should I do this online, or should I just, you know, keep it private. It becomes this question that we have to have all the time, like should we take a picture of the thing, or should we just experience it as it is in front of us. I think we're all kind of facing that question now in our lives."
On whether social media are inherently good or bad
"It's the extent to which we invite these technologies into our lives that I think really determines that answer. I think that, obviously, it's a great utility; we can connect to things really quickly, we can find out things much more quickly than we used to. But I think that there are moments when we really want to step back and say I really want to have this experience in an analog way, with sort of the full range of my experiences available to me, as opposed to doing it through a screen."
On changes to Facebook design
"One thing people should understand about any kind of technology is that these are constantly evolving technologies. The products change all the time. And so I think that's one of the tricky things for users, is that the product can change. And so you might have put your — you know, posted information when ... the product looked one way, and then the product changes, and the user has to adjust.
"I think that's a difficult thing for users to deal with sometimes, because sometimes it means that the privacy settings end up being slightly different than what they anticipated. And that's just sort of the nature, I think, of how these things develop. And it's something that users should be really conscious of as they're contributing to the system."