The meat Mark Zuckerberg eats is you
I've been amused reading reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will only eat meat he kills. The amusement isn't about Zuckerberg's behavior but bloggers, reporters or anyone else treating it like something new or quite odd. Zuckerberg has been eating the meat he kills for years, and it's really cannibalism. The meat he eats is you.
"The only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself," says Zuckerberg. Looking at the founding of Facebook, and some of the controversy surrounding it, Zuckerberg certainly is the hunter. It seems like the one activity where he is sure of himself -- hunting game.
The hunted range from Facebook's critics to people who dismissed him to the folks he had something to prove. Then there is the hunt for acceptance -- and there Zuckerberg isn't alone.
Reflecting the Socially Awkward
Facebook's success is one of the oddest since Mosaic set off the web revolution. The service is supposed to be a social network, but in many ways it's anything but. There's something very anti-social about Facebook, or perhaps it's better to say "awkward social" or socially awkward -- like it's for people who don't easily make or maintain relationships.
There's a concept in art and philosophy that a created thing reflects something about the creator. I've often wondered how much Facebook reflects Zuckerberg, his personality, attitudes and most importantly his abilities, or lack of them, to socially engage with others. If true, there's an irony about Facebook's success -- that a super smart but socially awkward geek could create the global watering hole for making and maintaining relationships.
Think about it. Why do you need Facebook if you can easily make and maintain relationships? But for the socially awkward, where distance is an advantage and the person engaged reads the intelligence of their writing rather than hears them or sees their uncertain facial and body expressions, Facebook is pure empowerment. But in process there is the killing and consumption of longstanding mores and rules for social interaction.
Facebook kills truly personal relationships, by inserting distance that separates rather than brings human beings together. So you have people wall posting, commenting and chatting on cells phones or computers rather than meeting and hanging out. It's easy for me to see Zuckerberg like this rather than doing the party scene or just hanging out with friends.
Facebook kills privacy. Have you ever noticed how the truly socially awkward want to be honest about everything and take too many things literally? For them, the typical nuances of human interaction are meaningless. What they need to interrelate competently and comfortably is openness -- no secrets, where everything is exposed and nothing is private. That's a more extreme description perhaps, such as someone with Asperger's Syndrome, yet it also is the impression I get about Zuckerberg. Don't you?
I see this need for openness expressed in Zuckerberg's attitudes about privacy and Facebook's continually stripping away privacy when introducing new features. Sure, there are other benefits to Facebook and its third-party applications developers to removing substantive layers of privacy. But when Zuckerberg talks about the topic, you hear something personal and philosophical. His on a quest.
Facebook kills your time. People spend time on Facebook they could with other people. The average Internet user spent 12.3 percent of his or her time online at Facebook in 2010 -- that's about one out of every eight minutes -- according to ComScore. That's time interacting with people at a distance that could be spent in person. On the other hand, people might just spend that time in front of the boob tube and interacting with no one at all.
Facebook kills your sense of identity. There's another odd thing about Zuckerberg's social network. Many people use it to promote themselves, to gauge what other people think of them, to make sure they fit in. The socially awkward person may not easily fit in elsewhere but he or she can via Facebook. Some people's obsession to reaction, especially through Facebook comments, is almost obsessive.
Then there's that whole truth thing again, where someone says what he or she feels and others support that position, empowering more frankness. I've seen some nasty Facebook gang bangs when dozens, even hundreds, of people pile up on one individual. They wouldn't likely do so in the real world, where rules of social interaction and even local laws discourage such harassment.
Facebook isn't Bad
I don't suggest or even mean to strongly infer that Facebook is all, or even mostly, bad. The service allows large groups of people to interact or to spontaneously plan and execute live events. Facebook allows people to find long lost friends or classmates -- even family members. Distant families can catch up on each other in real time, or college students on a close campus. There is much about Facebook that benefits people, communities and organizations and how they interact. It's hugely popular for a reason.
My point is something else -- that Zuckerberg's eating what he kills is nothing new, and his personality has shaped what is his social network. Facebook consumes you, your relationships, your time, your privacy and much that is common to human interaction. Say, Mark -- bon appétit.