Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Last year, I had dinner with a tech CEO who began to gush about Mark Zuckerberg.
"What he's built is just so amazing," she sang. "I can actually go onto Facebook and support him as he runs every day. I can even leave him encouraging messages."
I wondered what sort of supermarket vodka she'd poured into her Kool-Aid.
Why would you want to leave him messages?" I wondered. "He's just marketing."
I regret to say she became offended, accused me of cynicism, and declared I would be sentenced to a prison system renamed MySpace when President Zuckerberg was elected.
I confess I made the very last part up. She didn't verbalize it, but her eyes screamed it.
How has the Facebook CEO suddenly made himself appear so apparently likable?
A touching treatise by BuzzFeed offers clues. Zuckerberg has made a conscious effort to develop his EQ.
This, should you have been merely happy to be yourself for the last decade or so, stands for emotional quotient. It's the pretentious intellectual's way of describing acting like a human being.
Zuckerberg has gone out of his way to learn and do the things that make people like people.
He not only runs, but eats only things he kills. He also meets real human beings to see what makes them real. The idea is to learn about these things, so he can appear real too.
He's even traveling around to see what the outside world is like. After all, when you've been to Harvard for a short time and then gone straight to Silicon Valley, you've hardly seen the real world. You've barely heard about it.
Zuckerberg is known to be a severely nerdy sort who adores Vin Diesel, but has rarely said anything interesting in public.
Perhaps the most interesting -- and faintly nauseating -- bon mot was when he declared that he simply knew that people didn't want privacy anymore. (So he gathered up everyone's data and sold it to advertisers.)
Until he became obscenely wealthy, that is, when he suddenly discovered a desperate appetite for privacy.
Now he's discovered a desperate appetite to be liked.
BuzzFeed connects this with his ambitions and the fact that he got married and had a child. He's used this very cleverly to make little videos that show him to be a warmer and friendlier version of the cold tech wisdom-peddler he was before.
It's all highly political, yet bathed in a fear of annoying anyone. Not alt-lefties, not alt-righties, not even alt-Disneys.
Ergo, Facebook pictures of him with cuddly animals, rather than Peter Thiel.
It's as if he wants to represent some sort of adult knowledge and sensitivity, all born out of what he once called "moving fast and breaking things."
Suddenly, he can't understand why society is so broken. Perhaps he, who (don't tell him) contributed to breaking it, can put it back together again.
When you're putting yourself out in the world and projecting philanthropy, it makes fewer people dislike you and therefore want to delve into your more unpleasant parts.
As LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman told BuzzFeed: "People trust people more when they get a sense of them as human beings."
Even, it seems, if it's a sense of them as a human being slightly manufactured by a machine.
Hoffman describes this new Zuckerberg like so: "In addition to a super smart, super capable guy, he is also is a loving father, he has kind of a personal voice, he has emotional vibrancy."
Yes, that legendary Zuckerbergesque emotional vibrancy.
Zuckerberg has guidance on his touch-feely quotient, to be sure. It's Facebook's brand strategy to appear more likable, so it can infiltrate far more minds and countries (please like us, China), bearing far more (intrusive) services.
Behold, then, its CEO becoming more likable, with a bushel of image assistants, all so far under the radar they can't even see the radar, don't know where the radar is, and have never even heard of the radar.
This sentence from the BuzzFeed profile is quite adorable: "People close to Zuckerberg are so deeply invested in Zuckerberg's appearance of authenticity that you can practically hear them erasing themselves from the picture."
I chatted once to an operative from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic arm of the Zuckerberg empire.
This person parsed words like a parson in a brothel.
Every syllable was extracted for the listener to understand that Zuckerberg represented almost as much good as, well, if not Jesus, then certainly somewhere along the Barack Obama-Dalai Lama spectrum.
Tech PR operator Brooke Hammerling offered her own thoughts into this highly sanitized presentation of a new, caring -- and even occasionally sharing -- Zuckerberg.
"Do I think it's calculated? Absolutely, but that doesn't mean calculated in a bad way. He's testing his comfort level," she told BuzzFeed.
Oh, but he's not just testing his comfort level. He's testing ours.
He wants to know how likable he can make himself -- without truly giving anything away -- and how much more power that can give him.
But to do what exactly? Well, to make the world a better place, of course. It's what Silicon Valley's there for, didn't you know?