Oct 2010

Do we really care about Mark Zuckerberg?

Posted in Blogging | 0 Comments

As I sit discussing The Social Network, the upcoming-film focusing on Zuckerberg’s rise to power as the lord of Facebook, with a colleague in the IT department, he says something that strikes a chord with me. “But who actually cares about this guy?”

Before this film popped up, most people would be hard-pressed to tell you who ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ was, let alone pick his face out of a line-up (however, post-film, most people would end up accidentally picking Zuckerberg’s film doppelgänger Jesse Eisenberg instead). But now he’s been shoved into the limelight, and outside the cut-throat world of the Web 2.0 world of business, is his presence really that important?

There are a few names in IT that most people could name if they worked in marketing, IT or a similarly technologically-focused discipline. Bill Gates is the most obvious, followed by Steve Jobs. But after that, it begins to tail off into the obscurity of the “head of what?” names that make no difference to our lives.

Zuckerberg, he might happily claim, is in charge of a network of half a billion people, with access to their personal details. It wasn’t until this surfaced in the tabloids that most social media users glanced up from their status messages and thought about what they were entering onto a site that technically wasn’t private.

No smart admin would ever, for reasons of privacy or otherwise, deny themselves access to any part of their network. Their job requires no red tape whatsoever, and the thought that Mark might have the access to your most intimate message conversations is chilling. But are businesses opening themselves up to this as well? Surely, if someone at Facebook were to find out you were having an affair, or you’d slagged off your boss, then the results, should they make this information public, would be disastrous (though fie on you for doing either, anyway!).

But for a business, it could be much worse. Many a cast member or a media project has been leaked through idiotic updates on social media about what someone’s currently working on. It makes me shudder; if that’s what they’re giving to the public, then what are they talking about in private? We’ve never been in this situation before – one man has access to more personal and business information than any other human being on the planet, and we’re comfortable with this situation.

Sure, there must be legal fail-safes in place, and a considerable chunk of users would quit the network within days of hearing word that Zuckerberg and his cronies had abused their access privileges. But it highlights two key issues in modern communication.

The first is the amount we’re willing to share over the internet – risky amounts, at best. The other is the fact that while no one may care about Zuckerberg’s “celeb image”, but we don’t know as much about him as we’d like to. If he’s capable of stabbing friends and foes alike in the back in his rise to power, then how much further is he willing to go?

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but there are times I think I’m glad that my use of social media is a lot more subtle and focused than other people’s. If you’re in a position where people will look you up for professional reasons, by no means stick only to professional networks, but watch what you say.

It’s like drawing rude graffiti on the toilet wall at work and signing it. Sure, your work-mates might find it funny, but what happens when your new client spots it? Do we hide, or do we talk smart? I’m for the latter, but for now, I’d wait and watch Zuckerberg’s reaction to the harsh judges of his character in The Social Network when it hits cinemas this week. Not that he didn’t see it weeks, if not months ago, anyway…

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