When it comes to New Year resolutions there is one of late that is triumphed and lauded around the media, especially social. That resolution is Mark Zuckerberg’s yearly “personal challenge.”
I take no issue with anyone making both the time, as well as commitment to meet a new goal in the coming year that is challenging, invigorating and rewarding of the personal achievement kind. As a matter of fact I’ll argue far too few do.
It’s refreshing when it appears someone of stature is willing to put themselves on the line, in full view, and announce as a way to both possibly inspire others, as well as publicly put themselves on that proverbial line.
But appearances as in “it appears” is everything when it comes to these motivations, and of the people making them.
It is here, I’ll contend, when the CEO of one of the largest media and market capitalized corporations puts his annual “personal challenge” or goal out for public consumption, as to put himself on that line – is where anyone with a modicum of business sense should start trying to read precisely what may also be read into between those lines. For if a CEO wants to portray themselves as an open book – you had better be reading all the editions for a possible glimpse into where that tale maybe heading.
Do you remember some of Mark’s (I use the familiar only for ease) earlier goals?
Well, when Facebook™ (FB) was trying to break into China a few years back it was all about learning Mandarin. Then it was about reading books, you know, so you could also follow along with titles like “The End of Power”, or with authors like Henry Kissinger and more. All sounds quite innocuous when viewed in the moment, but it’s when you take as step back is when things begin to get a little clearer. Case in point:
Remember 2017’s challenge? Hint: To meet and listen to people in all 50 states.
Are you beginning to see a bit of a pattern here? Maybe you need a bit more to help clarify, if so let me add that another year it was to wear a tie, another was to eat only what he killed. Again, nothing wrong with these. However, if I add some further back story for a little more context maybe things become a bit clearer.
Remember way back when, circa 2016, when Mark wanted to reduce his stake in the company, yet still remain in control via the issuance of non-voting shares?
For those in need of a little reminder, this was when it was revealed that Mark was probably doing all of this for the assumed reasoning of getting into politics. It was revealed via messages between him and Marc Andreesen (which prompted a shareholder suit) where one of the messages reported, showed what may be the real intent. e.g., “how to define the gov’t service thing without freaking out shareholders that you are losing commitment.”
Ah, yes. That “losing commitment” thing. I mean, that’s just crazy talk, right? Well, I guess that all depends in how one might interpret the next personal goal for the future might be. And the only one that knows that is Mark himself. Yet, it’s not as if he’s not leaving (or left) enough breadcrumbs for those who want to look. Intentional, or not.
Anyone looking at the actions of Mr. Zuckerberg over the last few years seem to have come to the same consensus: He wants to be in politics, whether it’s running for president, or other high office.
When you look at his “personal challenges” over the last few years – the inferences are all spelled out and easy to read: Hunting -check, Wear a tie -check, Publicly read books of politics and big picture themes -check and check, Meet the people tour -again, check. And let’s not forget about funding a charity -check.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
But something happened on the way to becoming this millennia’s possible new “Emperor.” That something was “Fake News.” And it now seems that being the CEO of what many are touting as “the Evil Empire of Russian influenced fake news” ain’t what it used to be. After all, when it was only conservative outlets being maligned it was all “Gee golly whiz, we’re really sorry, blah, blah, blah” styled responses.
But when it comes to Russian influence and overthrowing the voting populace of “Mrs. Her Turn” for the tidy some of just $100 grand in political ads?” I’ll just invoke Ricky Ricardo and say “Lucy, you’ve got some splainin’ to do!” Because something sure doesn’t add up. Especially when outfits like P&G™ have spent $MILLIONS and can’t come close to that sort of impact on FB.
Think about it. The reasoning, excuses, mumbo-jumbo and more professed not only by Mark, but by anyone connected within FB has been met with either deaf-ears, or flat-out disdain. Nobody believes (nor wants to hear) anything coming out of FB currently. And I mean just that – anything.
Over the past year being the once “Boy-genius of everything social” has now morphed into being something along the lines of, “Evil Overlord of tech.”
Everyone’s talking crap about FB, even the people who helped create it, from founding president Sean Parker to early executives such as Chamath Palihapitiya.
No, I’ll wager it’s no longer fun just “making connections” at FB when the very people who were once its biggest supporters start using terms to describe the product now infiltrating almost all of society, globally with terms like this from Mr. Parker:
“… It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'”
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Or these from Mr. Palihapitiya:
When asked how he feels about Facebook: “Tremendous guilt.” About the dopamine-driven feedback loops they created: “…destroying how society works.” Does he let his own children use it: “…aren’t allowed to use that shit.”
All of this while the new product rollout for FB is “Messenger Kids” gets ready for primetime. Can you say “Joe Camel® moment?”
If you think FB hasn’t suffered any real damage of late in the public eye, just take a look at this latest polls via CB Insights™. To wit:
(Image Source, Non-working screenshot)
Remember, the above poll is basically a snapshot of those closest to the product and company. i.e., Silicon Valley and its tech force. I’ll add along side my own non-scientific poll with nearly every conversation I’ve held with others about FB, users above the age of 25: They’re limiting their own exposure to it. The response is near universal.
So now we have Mark’s 2018 “personal challenge”, which is, in a nut shell: “To do his job.” To wit:
“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do–whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,” he writes. “My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues.”
In essence, Zuckerberg is vowing to help fix the problems that plague Facebook, which is his job, something he admits: “This may not seem like a personal challenge on its face,” Zuckerberg writes, “but I think I’ll learn more by focusing intensely on these issues than I would by doing something completely separate.”
That’s a pretty good commitment to a challenge. Funny though, this takes place precisely and in conjunction of another, I guess one can say “goal” Mark announced back in September. That goal?
Funny how fast “philanthropic” reasons gets moved forward from an original $1Billion that was supposed to take place over the course of three years (e.g., The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative) and gets bumped up to near $14BILLION only two years in, when the proverbial brown stuff keeps being thrown against the fan daily, is it not?
But not too worry shareholders, for you’re told, it’s all just for “philanthropic” reasons. Feel better?
My, is it not funny how much charity work demanding Mark’s money is suddenly needed. You know, in conjunction with countries and others beginning to demand their own pound-of-flesh via FB coffers. If I were Mark, I’d want to get as much as I can out as soon as possible also I guess. After all…
It’s all for charity’s sake, right?
And don’t read into anything of what is the usual modus operandi of any CEO looking to make some form of exit with “putting full attention to making his company great again.” All while announcing he’s selling a major stake of said company. That’s all just a funny coincidence. Remember…
It’s all for challenge and charity – just ask Mark.
© 2018 Mark St.Cyr