Mark Zuckerberg has graced the Facebook world with his new year’s resolution, and it isn’t “have a kid who’ll someday employ all of the Winklevii offpsring’’ (although that’s undoubtedly his plan.)
No, Zuckerberg has resolved to read two books a month that “emphasize learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.’’
He made a Facebook page called A Year of Books (it already has well over 150,000 likes) and invited people to read what he reads and engage in conversation:
“Feel free to discuss it in the comments here, but please keep all conversation relevant to this book.’’
Because everyone knows that all it takes to keep internet comments civil is to ask people to do so.
He goes on:
“I’m excited for my reading challenge. I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling. Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.’’
Yes, reading is good. Reading two books a month is good. Learning about other cultures is good. These are all good goals.
But something feels a little bit pretentious about this whole plan. First of all, who is Zuckerberg to decide what cultures are “new?’’
The tech world, specifically Silicon Valley, has faced a lot of criticism for lacking diversity. Perhaps his book club is Zuckerberg’s calculated way to prove that he cares about fixing it (or that someone told him he has to), but in a “look how well I can read’’ kind of way. He’s publically announcing what he will do to make himself more worldly, more understanding. And then he’s telling everyone to do it with him so that we, too, can improve our minds.
But if Zuckerberg’s intent with this resolution is to educate himself about the greater world around him, as it seems to be, it would ring a lot more true if he had written “cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies new to ME.’’ He should’ve made it clear that he wants to learn about what he doesn’t know, and invite others along for the ride, rather than announcing that the books he chooses will describe things that will be new to everyone.
For a man who has said that he wants to get every human alive onto the internet (and ostensibly on Facebook), defining the “other’’ for the whole world smacks of privilege.
While it may seem that this is arguing over split hairs and semantics, it’s not. It’s crucial that someone in such a visible, public, and influential position be acutely aware of the message he sends.
It’s his equivalent of the Anchorman quote, “I have many leatherbound books and my office smells of rich mahogany.’’