The paradox of the first decade of the 21st Century is what started out as the 'shiny new thing' - built on its allure and prestige of being exclusive - is now hinged on an 'open door policy.' Human nature defines us by "tribe" - where we feel most comfortable, right, wrong or indifferent by 'our own kind.' However from "Harvard Students" to "Ivy League Schools" to "those with an .edu email address" to the "world at large" - within short order, Mark Zuckerberg transformed his original exclusive Facebook tribe into a true melting pot of peoples.
In watching the movie "The Social Network" it occurred to me that what allowed Zuckerberg to bust through his introverted shackles was developing a new communication channel made up of many tribes. What propelled Zuckerberg to create an online social network where groups could cross boundaries without fear of ridicule or reprisal was the basis for this new paradigm.
Whether or not you buy into the movie's premise that Zuckerberg's "outcast on campus" status of not being able to make a "Final Club" was the impetus that motivated him - the creation of Facebook did allow this insecure, awkward and yes, "antisocial" man to lead one of the largest "social tribes" in the world.
Yet the exclusivity of smaller groups is still at the crux of Zuckerberg's sensibility. The movie and the book "The Accidental Billionaires" highlight some of the 'tribes' that Zuckerberg chose to interact with. The tribes of "privilege,' "intellect," "nerds," "jocks," "hackers" and "VC capitalists" were groups Zuckerberg joined over time, dependent on his needs.
His school-kid crush of Sean Parker was garnered by his fascination with Internet rebels who were at the forefront of the Digital Revolution. Those that shucked "old school" principles and hacked their way into looking at the world through a new prism were his idols. And Parker fell in line with previous tribe members of this small exclusive club, going all the way back to Bill Gates.
Eduardo SaverinThe exclusive group of Venture Capitalists was a tribe introduced to the new CEO at a time when he was having second thoughts about his Harvard tribe led by Facebook's co-founder, Eduardo Saverin. While his small circle of friends at the university were exclusive, they were also imbued with a certain sameness that was more mundane than forward-thinking. While a member of one of the world's oldest tribes by birth, even Mark's Jewish heritage was not enough to make him want to join the Jewish Final Club on campus.
Joining the VC tribe allowed Zuckerberg free reign to transform his ambition into a living, breathing enterprise without any other tribe infringing on his desires and ambition. While the tribes of his past kept resurfacing like the ghosts from Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol, and he was faced with paying out billions in litigation, the newly created Facebook tribe was boiling over with followers from all walks of life.
Of recent date, Zuckerberg's entrepreneurial spirit has pitted him against companies he has chosen to compete with for Internet dominance. It can be said that Google is squarely in his cross-hairs not only because they are entertaining building their own social network, but also because they have controlled the digital landscape for over a decade.
Based on taking the search giant on, Zuckerberg has solicited a good number of members from the Google tribe in an all-out recruitment effort. With the strategic hire of Sheryl Sandberg, oSheryl Sandbergne of Google's senior executives, Zuckerberg followed up with the hiring of over 200 ex-Googlers to join his ranks. Known as the Silicon Valley's odd couple, Sandberg and Zuckerberg's differences are part of their strength. It's been said that one gains the most when you join a tribe to improve upon on one's weaknesses. Sandberg's polished yet personable demeanor offsets the socially awkward and reserved CEO and has made Facebook's inner circle stronger by attracting more of her ilk from a competing tribe.
The question today to be asked - does Facebook as large as it is maintain any of its original exclusivity? From elementary school kids to 80-year old seniors, the introvert who was once a member of a number of smaller exclusive tribes over the years is now ironically leading one the largest group of followers in the world - with seemingly no exclusivity.
Is Zuckerberg this century's new Pied Piper leading his flock blindly to a better world - or to a precipice that not only relinquishes our privacy, but also sets into play a new set of social mores that lacks compassion for other members of the group? Is this new 'free for all' paradigm indicative of the tribe's exclusivity, or does it set into motion a "Lord of the Flies" mentality that due to its size and lack of formality doesn't allow us a commonality to exist as a cohesive group?
Like the United States of America, it's a melting pot. However without sovereign state status, what is the common thread that underscores its membership base? Perhaps being "followers" is what gives this tribe its raison d'être. Perhaps being once referred to by its leader as "dumb f*cks" - while as offensive as that may sound - might be its common denominator. Your thoughts, readers?
Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel