I was always of the mindset that Mark Zuckerberg and I have exactly nothing in common. But recently, when I was reading The Facebook Effect for our KaneCo business book salon, I realized that that might not entirely be the case.
It hit me on page 199, where Zuckerberg expounds on a central tenant of his, “You have one identity.”
“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack in integrity,” the author quotes Zuckerberg as saying, “the level of transparency the world has now won’t support having two identities for a person.”
Now, I’d always considered Zuck’s love of transparency to be a generational trait (and, in many respects, it is), but when I read this, I put it together with something I read earlier in the book and wondered if there’s maybe an additional reason Mark has such a distinct vision for how humans should interact.
You see, like me, Mark was raised by a parent who is a mental health professional.
I know that, for me, my mom’s job was likely a contributing factor to my own early belief in having one central identity. It occurred to me while reading the book that maybe that’s the case for Mark too.
When you are a raised by a parent who is hyper-conscious of nurturing and protecting your sense of self-identity, it makes sense that you’d grow up to be protective of that core identity and to see others who have not placed emphasis on that quality as “broken.”
Psychologically, having a split identity is often associated with things that are bad — families who are extremely dysfunctional, but who put on a smiling face when they’re out in public, or (to a greater extreme) people who have a mental illness like bi-polar disorder.
Likewise, when you grow up in a home where there is an abundant sharing of feelings, it makes sense that you’d think of sharing feelings publicly as a positive thing and social media, a natural extension of that process.
So, does that mean I think Zuckerberg is right — you should have only one identity?
Yes and no.
I agree that this is a concept I’m comfortable with personally. And I think that over time, we, as a society, will move toward a place where we are collectively more comfortable with the transparency that having one identity entails.
But, in many ways, if we become more comfortable with it, it will have been because Zuckerberg wanted us to be comfortable with it.
Facebook has gotten so big that we all play in Mark’s sandbox now. If he wants to slowly turn up the “transparency dial” over time, most of us will be like frogs in a pot on the stove — we’ll sit and soak while our bodies adjust to the change, until the fateful day comes when we realize we just got cooked.
And maybe that’s okay if the stew Mark is brewing us in really does fulfill his vision of creating a better, more open world.
But what if Mark is wrong?
While I agree with Mark’s perspective, I also believe that it’s skewed. Psychologist and psychiatrist parents aren’t better parents, but they do parent differently. And, the reality is that the way Mark and I were raised isn’t the way most people are raised. We’re not actually the norm.
It wasn’t until I left college and entered the workforce that I realized this.
While in high school and college my transparency was an asset, in the workforce it became an obstacle and, quite frankly, sometimes a burden. I quickly learned that sharing your feelings in the workplace is akin to running naked though the cube farm — people just don’t go there.
Mark never had that experience. When he grew up, he took his college friends with him and he started out by running his own company. He missed out on the reality bitch slap that is this: most people have two identities, and they like it that way.
Yes, we’re becoming more transparent, but there are still a hell of a lot of people out there who still believe professional and private should be separate. (And there are a hell of a lot of companies out there encouraging their employees to stay true to that belief.)
The question remains then, in the future will some of those people decide to change their view and start living life with greater transparency?
In the end, the answer might not even matter.
If they continue to sit and soak in the pot, Mark will make the decision for them.
Note to my mom: No, I don’t think you were a bad parent and that you made me freaky. It’s just a metaphor. I am not currently wrestling with issues about this subject. I just needed something to blog about. And yes, I will call you soon.
Note to Zuck’s mom: Your son seems awfully nice, and he is running the world and all, so I’m guessing you’re probably a good parent too. And yes, I’m sure Mark will call you soon, too. (pssst. Mark…call your mom)