Mark Zuckerberg wears a version of the same gruel-toned T-shirt every day not because media handlers suggested he rock a signature look in the manner of visionary icons Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. Nor does the Zuck don apparel of a color that exists only in dystopian tales (sort of a 1984-gray) simply because he’s a really busy guy who can’t be bothered. According to Zuckerberg, in his first public Q&A conducted in English, the lack of diversity in his personal wardrobe is because he cares.
“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve the community,” Zuckerberg told the audience during Thursday’s town hall on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park. “I’m in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than 1 billion people, and I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things.” Things like the color spectrum, clearly.
Is Zuckerberg ingesting nothing but soylent, too? Think of time saved! Does the Zuckerberg uniform include astronaut diapers, so he can “go” on the go? And by serving “the community” does Zuckerberg mean “capitalism”?
The Truth Is Out There
Truth in Silicon Valley, like Einstein’s Spacetime theory, is relative.
Running a multi-billion dollar for-profit corporation with a dodgy history of hiring practices, privacy rights, and “customer service” is neither a priestly calling nor noble endeavor. Mother Theresa, Zuckerberg ain’t. Doctors Without Borders serves humanity. Teachers and firefighters serve humanity. Building shareholder value when you are yourself the biggest shareholder is a somewhat less selfless undertaking.
Nonetheless, do-goodery—the marketing tool du-jour in Silicon Valley—saturates every aspect of Zuckerberg’s media-honed public persona. The reason is obvious. Public acts of charity are more than a sweet tax-write off if you’re a billionaire CEOs who can easily afford to flip a few couch cushions in the name of, say, eradicating Ebola.
It shows your “community”—who may feel burned by your company more than a few times—that you care. It also plays great with shareholders, at least one of whom recently expressed concern that despite the social network’s public support of the gay and transgender community, its political action committee “has donated 41% of contributions since its inception to politicians voting against LGBT rights.”
Trust No One
That shareholder’s concern that Facebook’s fiduciary hypocrisy could cause it to fall from public favor is documented in Facebook’s April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That same filing includes a note about how 30% of the PAC’s contributions have gone to “politicians voting to deregulate greenhouse gases,” the filing states, “despite Facebook’s public support for the environment.”
Zuckerberg, one of the richest men on the planet trying to pass himself off as a do-gooder, is one of the most spectacular cases of personality overreach ever. That doesn’t mean you should quit Facebook. But just because you use Zuckerberg’s product doesn’t mean you have to drink his Kool-Aid.
Screengrab by Facebook