Are you still on Facebook? If so, do you ever get those notices reminding you of the silly things you posted years ago?
Imagine if you were Mark Zuckerberg. Imagine how embarrassing your anniversary posts would be.
Take the personal public challenges he sets for himself each year, for example. I'm not making these up. How well do you think they've aged?
- 2009: Wear a tie to work every day.
- 2010: Learn a new language (Mandarin Chinese).
- 2011: Eat meat only when he has slaughtered it himself.
- 2012: Code something every day.
- 2013: Have more conversations with people who don't work at Facebook.
- 2014: Write a thank-you note every day.
- 2015: Read a new book every two weeks.
- 2016: Code an A.I. assistant.
- 2017: Get out to states and talk to more people.
All of which brings us to 2018, which Zuckerberg wrapped up in a year-end post the other day, when he said his big "personal challenge" was to "focus on addressing some of the most important issues facing our community." Things like:
- preventing election interference;
- stopping the spread of hate speech and misinformation;
- making sure people have control of their information; and
- ensuring [Facebook's] services improve people's well-being.
Good God, those are a heck of a lot more important than updating your wardrobe to look a tiny bit like an adult.
And yet, in defense of Zuckerberg (talk about four words people don't like to write very much these days): There's a brutal truth behind it all that people don't like to talk about for some reason.
Zuckerberg is basically the tech industry version of a child actor. He's grown up literally right before our eyes.
He's not the only CEO ever to launch a company in a dorm room and build it into something gigantic, true, but his experience was different from that of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell.
There's no equivalent to Jobs's traveling to India and doing LSD before launching Apple, or Gates's heading out to New Mexico and starting a bootstrapped version of what was then known as Micro-Soft.
I'm not aware that Zuckerberg ever had another job besides being CEO of Facebook. There's no part of his adult life during which he just got to live, and grow, and make mistakes without all of us watching.
He was at Phillips Exeter, then Harvard, and then in the conference rooms at the biggest venture capital firms watching investors fall all over him, all within the space of three years. Heck, Aaron Sorkin produced a Zuckerberg biopic when he was barely 26.
So, yes. Maybe if Zuckerberg had been more focused on all the nefarious ways Facebook could be used for evil, we'd be in a better spot right now.
Maybe if he'd appreciated just how hopelessly trusting Facebook's original mission statement was--that giving people "the power to share and make the world more open and connected" works only if you're sure that people will use that unfettered power for good.
If only, right? And yet here we are. Because the brutal truth isn't one of those things about how we created Mark Zuckerberg, and so we're responsible for whatever happens as a result of his actions.
Instead, it's even more brutal: It's that at 34 years old, he's the irreplaceable CEO of one of the most powerful companies in the history of the world, and the third-richest person on the planet.
And it's only just now, it seems, that he's starting to sound like a grown up.