When did we start seeing our tech leaders as gods?

You might trace the lineage back to Steve Jobs. I've mentioned before that I met him at a tech conference once. I was one among many, but did shake his hand and chat with him for a few moments. It was a bit surreal, because you feel as though you are in the presence of greatness. And yet...why do we deify these mere mortals?

In a recent post at Gizmodo, a writer compared Mark Zuckerberg to Jesus Christ in a humorous way. It wasn't meant to be too serious. At the recent F8 developer conference, Zuckerberg strode out to the booths and walked the halls, at one point explaining how he doesn't take selfies with people or he would have to stop and do that with everyone. He asked people walking with him about their favorite new feature in Facebook, and seemed genuinely interested in what they had to say.

It was a bit of a gag moment for me, though. Really? He's a rock star now?

For starters, Zuckerberg has not quite proven he has the legacy of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates yet. Sure, the massive social network he created in a college dorm room has disrupted our lives. The company has five million advertisers. There are 1.2 billion users. It's a massive force in news distribution, direct communication, artificial intelligence, and connection with people from all over the world.

Here's my problem.

How much should we credit the founders of companies for this disruption?

With Facebook, you can see how it evolved.

In 2003, the first real social network (Myspace) disrupted our lives. I remember my oldest daughter talking about having a blog on Myspace and sharing her thoughts with friends. Somehow, Myspace lost momentum and Facebook picked up the reins and never let go.

You could argue that Facebook is like an operating system for social connections, and without one single network as the operating system, our digital lives become more chaotic. Years ago, a few startups tried to create the "social network for business" or "the social network for photography" but most of those efforts failed because everyone would drift back to the one central hub for social connections and stay there.

Now, did Mark Zuckerberg force them to come back? Did he create the idea of social connection? You could also argue that, while Steve Jobs was the visionary behind many Apple products, it was really Jonathan Ive who created them. Bill Gates was the mastermind behind Microsoft's strategic effort and technical prowess. He was originally a coder. But did he really invent the operating system? You could argue that the timing was perfect for both DOS and Windows to help turn a room full of computers into a computer on your desk. (Before that, as the movie Hidden Figures so wonderfully demonstrated, a computer was an actual person with exceptional math skills.)

You might say--what about Elon Musk? Shouldn't we deify him? If he walked around at a conference, Gizmodo might also point out that he has a halo over his head or a strange glow. And, the Gizmodo writer was by no means saying it's a good thing Zuckerberg is a celebrity--it was all tongue in cheek. But it begs an important question. Why are we looking for tech heroes? Is there some reason we deify them and make them immortal?

Here's my theory, and you knew this was coming. Our tech heroes, like other celebrities, are a projection of our own desires in life. We want to be the guy wearing the gray hoodie, we want to be the woman giving the interview on CNN explaining how a new startup is so disruptive. These are icons of industry because we want to be the icon. We want the halo.

Maybe it's time we stop putting them in such a lofty position. Zuckerberg would likely be the first to admit his surprise over the incredible rise of Facebook in its early days. Was it his specific management skill that created this massive company? Was it Steve Jobs who invented the iPad? Was Elon Musk the one specific reason the Model S sedan exists?

In my view...it was us. We created Mark Zuckerberg, and Facebook, and Steve Jobs, and the iPad. We created the fascination and the incredible interest. It's us.

Now the question is--what do we do about it? I'd say--and this might be a stretch--we can all take some of the credit for Tesla and Windows 10 and the iPhone and the social network. All of us together created "the hype" around a product or service, and that's a good thing. That's collective wisdom. That's the real social experiment, picking the winning product. We're all by extension creating the iPad and Windows because we recognize greatness when we see it...and the sales numbers verify our choices.

The deification doesn't really make sense, though. That's the real stretch. Mark Zuckerberg is not Jesus Christ by a long shot. But the customer in the end is the ultimate judge of greatness. That's what will go down in the history books eventually--that we all recognize when something is life altering, when it changes our lives.

In the end, the mirror reflects back at us.