TIME magazine recently announced its selection of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as its “Person of the Year.” Below is the complete text from their essay on Zuckerberg and why they chose him:
Many years ago, perhaps as many as 100 years ago, a dead white person made an astute observation about human nature. That observation was vague enough that it could be applied to anything, and I am applying it, now, to TIME’s “Person of the Year” selection, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Today is a period of transition. Of evolution. Of transitionary evolution and of evolutionary transition. Take, for example, the ways in which human beings connect with one another. This, too, has evolved. Where once there were “telephones,” now you have “cell phones.” Some of those “cell phones” have “cameras” with which anyone can snap a photo to send to friends. If something happens directly in front of you, you can immediately take the picture. Snap. Just like that, with the speed of thought. Even quicker than the speed of thought, because thoughts can’t be transmitted electronically the way images can.
Or, perhaps you are in the mood to communicate with written words? Where once you might send a letter to someone, now you can send an “electronic letter,” or, if you prefer to use the vernacular of today’s youth, an “email.” If you’re in too great a hurry, if the need is too immediate to commit to the composition of a full “email,” you might send a “text message,” or “txt.” In this way you can immediately connect with the person you have chosen to receive what it is you have to say. You can even add an “emoticon” to ensure that the receiver knows whether you are happy [;)], or sad [:(].
Then, there is “the internet.” This amazing device allows “users” (such as those who might have been referenced in the aforementioned dead white person’s observations) to “log on” and get the latest bread recipes, or catch up on the latest weather updates, read a selection from a public domain work of literature, and, if you are so inclined, watch a few minutes of a pornographic motion picture. In our must have it now culture, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because you must not necessarily wait for your gratification. It is a curse because, as an older person who remembers what it was like to have to wait for gratification, I can clearly tell that instant gratification is changing our children, and we don’t yet know if it is changing them for the better, or for the worse, or if the terms “better” and “worse” even apply anymore in the modern world. It is changing their attitudes, is the internet.
Then, you have “social networks,” such as those mentioned in the popular New York Film Critics Circle award-winning film “The Social Network,” which nearly everyone on TIME’s editorial board saw. We are all big fans of Aaron Sorkin.
Aaron Sorkin is an author of soaring and quotable scripts for film and television. Who can forget the immortal line, “You can’t handle the truth!” from the film “A Few Good Men”? That line was memorably bellowed into life by the lifebreath of the great actor Jack Nicholson’s riveting performance; but it gestated from the febrile mind of Mr. Sorkin. He clearly has an appreciation of the history of humankind, and would no doubt nod his head in sage agreement at the sentiment expressed by the dead white person referenced in the first paragraph of this essay.
The same, perhaps, might not be said about Mark Zuckerberg. He is the founder of Facebook. He is young and he is a college drop out, as “The Social Network” made clear. He was born in 1984. There is much we could choose to note about that year. It is the year in which George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, was set, although not written. It was the year in which the United States re-elected the oldest person ever to hold the office of the presidency. It was the first year of the Macintosh computer. It was the last year in which TIME magazine was considered relevant.
Mr. Zuckerberg came of age in a time in which everything was changing. And he himself facilitated that change. It has been said, by scientists, that human beings are capable of doing many things at once, and that they are affected by their surroundings. Mr. Zuckerberg has proven that. We have evolved, thanks to him. First, there was from the primordial ooze of the internet that amazing wonder known as “Friendster.” Friends could “connect,” and share their interests. We evolved. Then came “myspace.” Friends could now finally “connect,” and share their interests. Again, we evolved. Or, should we say, Mr. Zuckerberg, the T-shirt wearing homo sapien, grabbed us all and bodily carried the rest of us cro magnons to the next step of our evolution, Facebook. Finally, friends could “connect” and share their interests.
There are children being born right this minute, in 2010, who will never know what it is like to grow up without a “Like” button. Who won’t know the strange sensation of not being able to immediately post photos of yourself passed out drunk at a party. Who won’t understand that there was once a time when people sometimes went days without updating their “status.”
Mr. Zuckerberg has codified into one convenient internet location both our narcissism and voyeurism. We enjoy looking at others, and we enjoy being looked at, as long as we are looked at when we feel we’re at our best. Conversely, we enjoy looking looking at others when we feel they’re at their worst, or when they’re doing something embarrassing. That is part of the dichotomy of the indomitable human spirit that scientists who study human nature, the anthropologists, often discuss in the most quizzical of academic tones. Human beings contain multitudes, as another famous dead white person once said. No one understands that, and has been able to make money from it, better than Mr. Zuckerberg. He has literally billions of dollars. That is why we chose him, and not Julian Assange or The Tea Party.
No one “Targets Demos” better than Mark Zuckerberg.
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