'Each time, as I listen and fall under their spell I become a different man - I'm convinced that I have become taller and nobler and better looking all of a sudden. It's only with difficulty that on the third or fourth day I recover myself and realise where I am." (Socrates, listening to a great orator.)

At his speech in Sydney last week, former US President Barack Obama said he was going to spend the next 20 years working on how to cultivate leadership skills among the young. He urged young people not to abandon institutions, but to reshape and revitalise them.

He got a standing ovation. I posted it on my Facebook page.

But a couple of days later, I came to, Socrates-like, scratched my head and thought: Huh? What was I thinking?


Elite private schools often talk in a similar creepy way about how they are going to create leaders. It seems an innocuous aim. But especially now, we should be deeply suspicious of the cult of leadership.

We are at a moment in history where we are already grappling with the unhealthy degree of unbridled power that has been conferred on our corporate overlords. The comedian Sacha Baron Cohen joked at tycoon David Geffen's birthday party that the men in the room could make up "the world's third-largest economy". Billionaire Barry Diller, who was there, mumbled: "It's close to true." That's scary.

Yet these are the media elite that Obama schmoozes with in private jets and meets for golf. And when Obama urges young people not to abandon institutions because they are part of a liberal democracy: well, sorry, but maybe there are some, like Facebook, that need to be brought down a peg or two.

I know this is sounding like an eat-the-rich sort of position, but you know what? I don't really care. Something has changed. There has been a feet-of-clay moment that has toppled many of our heroes and created a kind of bloodlust to depose the most hubristic of the tech elite. And it's not just sour grapes because of their arrogance and privilege. It's deeper than that. It's what happens when you have your eyes opened to the reality of treating people as if they were products rather than human beings. Which is what Facebook has done.

Mark Zuckerberg, in a well-known incident he now surely regrets, was asked in the early days of Facebook why people would hand over their personal information to him. He responded: "They trust me - dumb f***s."

Well maybe we're not so dumb any more. Last week his company lost US$60 billion in value after it was revealed to have let Cambridge Analytica access the data of millions of users. And although Facebook is constantly urging you to share your immediate thoughts and reactions to every life event, we were a couple of days into the company's biggest crisis before Facebook's creator shared any of his thoughts. There's probably a lesson in that.

Of course, I thought of joining #deletefacebook. It does seem to be the perfect time for an alternative social network to spring up.

But ultimately it doesn't matter whether I delete my account. My children are not interested in Facebook and I doubt they ever will be, and if that is any indication, Facebook's power will wane. It will happen - part of the inevitable decline of leaders of empires and their pretensions to greatness. Facebook is turning into an Ozymandias.

Although Facebook has enriched itself and the Peter Thiels of the world by exploiting and making money from the toil of others (journalists included), destroying whole industries in the process, the truth is that the creative works that last are not products like Facebook, but true artworks, expressions of our deepest humanity.

I can appreciate Obama's oratory, but I'd rather teach my children to be okay with being ordinary human beings, who remain sceptical about the pretty words from powerful elites rather than trying to join them. Don't be one of the "dumb f***s".