Mark Zuckerberg: Call Me

*Note: This post first appeared Mar. 7, 2011. Why is it back? Good question. Here’s the answer.

I have come to a realization in the last week, one that has nothing to do with my aspirations to embody what a Dave Barry/Jerry Seinfeld love child might be like or express my goals in the most awkward way possible:

I want to write a biography of Mark Zuckerberg.

No, that’s not another joke. And quite frankly, I’m not sure that I have much funny to say on this subject. He just kind of fascinates me, so I thought I’d try to get a blog post out of it.

Isn’t that what Lewis said about Clark before they headed west? Or was it Clark about Lewis? Whatever.

The point is I’m more than a little intrigued by the creator of Facebook, and it has nothing to do with his product, which I resisted using far longer than I needed to due to some vague Enemy of the State complex. Case in point: I only made a Facebook page for this blog a week ago, even though for someone trying to build an online platform for his work, it’s almost a necessity.

Why throwing all this stuff up on a blog seemed OK while the idea of doing it on Facebook made me uneasy defies logical explanation, but you’ve read the first paragraph of this post. Are you surprised my thought process might be short a widget or two?

So my Zuckerbergian interest has nothing to do with me being an early adopter. And not to sound all Hakuna Matata, but I don’t think chronicling someone’s life just because he’s insanely wealthy or famous would do it for me, either.

In this particular case, it also seems fair to rule out the prospect that talking to him would be like a nurturing chat with my Nonna. Say the hit-you-on-the head irony of his social awkwardness that pervades the movie The Social Network was completely overstated; interviewing someone that outrageously smart would probably still make me feel like the three-dimensional equivalent of Peter Griffin.

At this point, I’ve just about exhausted the little bit of knowledge I do have of my proposed subject, and he still sounds like someone who could very well traumatize me. What, then, is the attraction? Two words that are a siren song for any writer:

Creative process.

I can’t get enough of how creative people do what they do, whether they’re writers or not. Sure, “creative” might not top the list of adjectives used to describe a computer programming genius—or even crack the top 50—but that’s exactly how I see him. He took work he was passionate about, gave it shape in the form of a specific idea, and, perhaps most importantly, pursued it with singular passion and drive, almost like he couldn’t not do it, success or failure be damned.

It may be the height of naivety, but I don’t think it was about the money, at least not when he was translating something in his head into line upon line of code into a revolution in how we communicate.

In The Accidental Billionaires, the book on which the The Social Network is based, Ben Mezrich describes one such instance of Zuckerberg’s focus as follows:

Mark didn’t respond. The truth was, Eduardo was pretty sure Mark hadn’t slept much in the past week. He had been working round the clock, light to dark to light. He looked beyond exhausted, but it didn’t matter … He was in that pure laser mode that every engineer understood. He refused to suffer any distraction, anything that could jar the single thought loose.

This bears striking similarities to something written by a man who, in a gross bit of understatement, could be characterized as an “unlikely” peer for Zuckerberg:

I don’t think I slept much the first three weeks making The Slim Shady LP, all I did was write. I stayed up the whole night writing the verses to “My Name Is,” and then came in the next day and recorded.

Yup, it’s Eminem (in his book The Way I Am). And as long as I’m taking leaps to argue unlikely connections, what about this line from Jerry Seinfeld on Comedy?

I will spend an hour trying to get an eight-word line down to five, if I can do it, because that’s part of what makes a joke is the economy of the expression.

To me, there’s a dedication to their respective crafts that connects all three of these guys as types of artists, despite the fact that they’d make for a bizarre answer to the proverbial “What three people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?”

Guess I finally have an answer to that question.

This is my impression of Mark Zuckerberg, anyway. It’s based on seeing The Social Network—two times, I might add—and reading a little less than half of Mezrich’s book so far. I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t enough to make me anywhere near an expert, especially since I feel like movie and book portray him in different lights.

Maybe I’m way off. Maybe I’m spot on. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Regardless, I think it would be an interesting journey finding out.


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