There is an interesting connection between building a revolutionary, globally popular social networking site – even making the term ‘social network’ a huge catch phrase, when you are a socially inept person. Not that you don’t have social skills – that might be an overstatement from a person who doesn’t know Mark Zuckerberg at all, but based on the possibly opinionated and one-sided movie The Social Network (and the book Accidental Billionaries) – but rather, a person who never quite fits in. What is clear, from various popular accounts, including that of friends who have met him in person, is that he’s not exactly a people person. In much the tradition of geeks (Sean Parker being an exception?), Zuckerberg prefers his own company, intelligence, a computer and the company of like-minded others rather than mingle with regular civilians.
Whatever may be his motivation, what is hugely interesting is the irony in the situation that someone who isn’t at ease in the company of others, creates a space where people can easily form social connections. Or maybe there isn’t any irony there, it is merely an organic growth. When you realize that you may need a shield to stalk people, make friends and be a social voyeur, you realize that there is a very strong space to fill – a void in the lives of many people. How many people are cool? How many people actually fit in? Barely any. But there are millions others who are looking for a platform to interact, fit in and hang out. And a platform that doesn’t even require effort – just sit in your pajamas at home and do so.
Zuckerberg was filling a gap that was hugely missing from people’s lives, which would have arrived sooner or later on the Internet – it was just his time, place and ability to jump on the idea, recognizing it’s importance. While the Winklevoss twins may have understood the implication, they were still building something exclusive and ivy league – had they even managed to get the site going their way, they would never have had the vision of a socially inept person to make Facebook what it is, because they would probably have missed the point about what’s missing in everyone’s life, which Zuckerberg would inevitably keep stumbling upon, recognizing it from his own life. For instance, if someone came up to the Winklevosses and asked them about a girl in their class, they would respond naturally with an answer about the girl in their class, getting the scoop – they wouldn’t think about it the way Zuckerberg would – as a great way to have a ‘relationship status’ update online, because Zuckerberg wouldn’t be likely to be in on the relationships of people in his class, but with Facebook he – and others like him – could.
The ‘uncool’ Zuckerberg made the coolest thing to hit the Internet, making himself the ‘coolest’ person to know in the bargain. Whether things went down in the history of Facebook the way it is portrayed in the book/ film, and whether the people are as portrayed in the book/ film is left to be seen or speculated, but what remains true is that Facebook is what it is, because Zuckerberg is who he is.