Erin Lausten

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Is the man a genius?

Posted by erinlausten on December 16, 2010

Words written: 52,532 Currently Reading: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I’m going to jump on in and provide my two cents. If at the end of this you would like change, please let me know in the comments.

I’ve always shied away from the issue of the moment, usually because it will die down with a little time and then there may actually be room for reasonable discussion. When things are hot, they are usually just that, so hot you can’t get a hold of it. If you try, you just get burned. But I’m intrigued by this:

Mark Zuckerberg has been named Time’s Person of the Year.

The web is all a twitter (haha, I made a funny) about this choice. Many disagree with the choice, mostly because they think there is someone else that should have taken the top seat, like wikileaks’ Julian Assange or the twitter man Jack Dorsey. I am sure the choices are justified and I am really not interested in arguing with that, after all, it’s the same as any contest, there is only one top spot and the opinions are never unanimous.

But this whole thing brings up an interesting issue. Facebook has impacted half a billion people. Half a billion. I can’t even put that number in context. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s jaw dropping, it’s well, not all that surprising. The success of Facebook isn’t necessarily because Zuckerberg is a genius,  I’m not saying he’s not a genius, I am suggesting the success comes from elsewhere. The genius part is that he and the concept of Facebook happened along at the right time, in the right place, and it was flexible.

The flexible part is the most important, and that has everything to do with how people really work. As an author (it will happen, I’m not aspiring, I’m just undiscovered) and trained anthropologist (hey, that’s what the degree says, I paid for it, I might as well claim it), I spend a lot of time thinking about people. You have to know what makes them tick. Why they do what they do. And the biggest challenge to all this is that people have no idea why they do the things they do. And you certainly can’t figure out what one person wants let alone the entire world of people in a board room.

It’s hit or miss. Sometimes you guess right sometimes you don’t. How do I know this you may ask? Because I don’t know what I want. I can give an educated guess. I have years of experience with myself and even I can’t get it right all of the time, so how can someone else? We can follow patterns, but that is really all we have.

Case in point: I have a small collection of shoes ( I am by no means a shoe fan, I have to wear them, that’s about it) when I bought each pair I had in mind that I would wear them regularly. Yet there are only two pair that I do. It turns out, I didn’t really want the others, but how would I know that? The same goes for clothes, books, electronics, boyfriends (luckily I stumbled on the one for me, but that seriously came out of nowhere), friends, condiments, pens, nic naks–you get the picture. I have gotten better at making choices, but still, my house is packed with things I thought I wanted, but really didn’t.

So what does this have to do with Facebook? It gives us what we want, but when we tell it we don’t, it flexes, it changes, it is continually changing, just like we do.

Now, there is the thought that we are being told what we want. And I can see this. Hence the reason I have a house full of crap. But, in the long run, those things come and go. Facebook is becoming a central part of our life because it changes with us. The day it stops is the day it goes away.

So this brings me back to the genius comment. Is Zuckerberg a genius for staying flexible? Sure. But that’s not why Facebook is really successful. The real reason is because the web had to become something people wanted and needed. The internet started out as a way to share information. It still is. But you have to broaden your concept of information to include relationships.

For a while there it seemed that humanity was getting sucked into something that stole community. Many still think it does. But I would argue that it doesn’t. People need community. People need interaction. And we will make sure that it does. And this is why Facebook is successful. It is a tool that allows us to be what we are–social.

Some think that we lose much because we do not have that physical connection, that the relationships are shallow and carry less meaning. But we are increasingly living in situations where the physical relationships around us a deteriorating. How many of us truly know our neighbors? How many single people out there in a city of millions can’t find a person to spend their lives with? The lack of meaningful relationships isn’t the fault of the web, it is in the fabric of how we are living. The web seems to give us the opportunity to find people that we really can connect with. For some it is shallow, but perhaps they are shallow on the outside as well. Correspondence and long distance relationships have existed for centuries (just look at Abigail and John Adams), it’s just bigger and faster now.

Facebook is a phenomenon. Is it going to change the whole world? No. It is part of the world that is changing. It was going to happen one way or another, Zuckerberg just happened to have his eyes open when the opportunity presented itself. And that is why he is a genius.

Just an interesting little aside: I got as many hits to my blog for simply posting a video of Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear as I have with some of my more thought provoking posts. This, dear reader, is why we should always remember the power that is the Fozz.


6 Responses to “Is the man a genius?”

  1. Eve said

    Great post.
    Just look at the companies being traded for big bucks on the stock market.
    AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, etc.
    It used to be prayer was the first wireless connection. People change.

  2. Shelly said

    A great thoughtful post.

  3. Edrienne said

    It strikes me as funny that the one thing that keeps Facebook so successful is the one thing that many of it’s users complain about.
    It also strikes me as funny that we have another similarity. I LOVED reading the letters between John and Abigail Adams. I miss that book.

  4. William Kendall said

    Facebook to me is a tool, but not more.

    “The power of the Fozz compells you! The power of the Fozz compels you!”

    Where’s Linda Blair turning her head when we need it?

  5. Rob said

    Loved the post

    Was a little dissapointed, however, that I don’t think my name even came up in discussions for “Man of the Year”

    Maybe next year

    Thank you for this post!

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