What does it say when the founder, owner or CEO of a company makes it a point not to use the company’s product?
Reporting for Popular Science (via pocket), Eleanor Cummins calls the actions of these CEOs “an important bellwether — a sign of problems consumers may not even know they’re facing.” According to Cummins:
From tobacco to food manufacturing to social media, executives and insiders are subtly sounding the alarm in actions, if not in words. Their behaviors provide insight not just into the risks of certain consumer products to children, but to adults, too….
The following are some striking examples:
(1) High tech and social media:
- The late Steve Jobs, who founded Apple Inc., forebade his kids to use the iPad or any other product their dad invented. According to a 2014 report by Nick Bilton of The New York Times, and Walter Isaacson, author of the definitive biography Steve Jobs, Jobs’ family was low-tech. Jobs said his children “haven’t used it [the iPad]. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” Every night, the family had a phone-free dinner together, and his children were not “addicted at all to devices.”
- Mike McCue, founder of Flipboard, said of social media during a 2017 appearance on the Recode Decode podcast: “It’s like if you ate potato chips all day long. You have to have a balanced information diet. There’s nothing wrong with looking at Facebook. If that’s all you do then you’re just going to be a product of that.”
- Former Google employee Tristan Harris and his colleagues at the Center for Humane Technology gray out their smart phones’ screens and turn off all (or all non-essential) notifications.
- Susan Cameron, former CEO of Reynolds American that makes Camel cigarettes, stopped smoking “conventional cigarettes” more than 15 years ago and turned instead to electronic cigarettes, which some believe are a healthier, though no less addictive, alternative.
(3) Junk food manufacturers:
In his 2013 book Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss documented the ways in which food manufacturers hacked our taste buds and designed snacks, sodas, and other grub that keep us “hooked.” There is a class issue at work in processed foods, in which the inventors and company executives don’t generally partake in their own creations. Publicly, these companies have broadcast their efforts as a boon to convenience, satisfaction, and savings—despite mounting health concerns. But privately, many junk food executives and their families avoided their own products, including: