So­cial net­work­ing

Face­book founder’s big sis­ter has ba­sic ad­vice for life on­line

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS -

DOT Com­pli­cated is part mem­oir and part self-help book, aim­ing to use sto­ries from real life to help read­ers nav­i­gate so­cial chal­lenges in the on­line world. This medi­ocre book is the first lit­er­ary out­ing for U.S. en­tre­pre­neur Randi Zucker­berg, 31, who worked for six years as a mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive at Face­book, the so­cial me­dia em­pire founded by her younger brother, Mark, be­fore leav­ing to start her own com­pany. She be­gins with a lengthy au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal sec­tion, fol­lowed by chap­ters on spe­cific top­ics, such as friends, love and ca­reer. Each chap­ter of­fers her ob­ser­va­tions on the in­flu­ence of new tech­nol­ogy, pep­pered with vi­gnettes from av­er­age peo­ple. When she’s not drop­ping the names of celebri­ties she has met, Zucker­berg pro­vides lots of anec­dotes from her own hap­pily do­mes­ti­cated life — she is mar­ried to her col­lege sweet­heart and has a young son — of­ten in te­dious de­tail. In con­trast, her sto­ries about other peo­ple, some­times friends, some­times strangers, are in the third-per­son, usu­ally in a sin­gle para­graph. It’s a cu­ri­ously lost op­por­tu­nity for Zucker­berg to fail to in­clude any com­men­tary from the ac­tual sub­jects of these sketches or from the re­searchers whose stud­ies she briefly cites; their voices could have pro­vided a wel­come breather from Zucker­berg’sZ per­sonal nar­ra­tive. While Dot Com­pli­cated spends a lot of time re­count­ing tech-re­lated sit­u­a­tions Zucker­berg has en­coun­tered, it pro­vides lit­tle prac­ti­cal ad­vice to help read­ers man­age their own on­line lives. An ex­am­ple: Be­fore the In­ter­net, Zucker­berg writes, in­for­ma­tion was ei­ther pub­lic, pri­vate or per­sonal — the lastla in­clud­ing “things you might tell your friends but you prob­a­bly wouldn’t share with strangers.” On­line, she ar­gues, there is no longer a cat­e­gory of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion; whilew you might post a pic­ture to a select au­di­ence of close friends, you then lose con­trol of its dis­tri­bu­tion since any mem­ber of that group could share the photo more widely. “This whole sit­u­a­tion needs to be fixed,” she writes. “We need to find a way to bring back per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on­line.” How­ever, she’s short on so­lu­tions. “Be care­ful who you choose as your friends,” she ad­vises. “Re­post unto oth­ers as you would have them re­post unto you.” The prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions Zucker­berg does present tend to fall into the “well, duh” grade of ad­vice (“Don’t be a jerk” or “Pro­tect your pri­vacy”), and even the limited amount on of­fer is of­ten con­flict­ing. For ex­am­ple, she rolls her eyes about cou­ples on Face­book who are “con­stantly post­ing lovey-dovey pho­tos,” or peo­ple who record con­certs on their smart­phones. “Put the phone away,” she in­tones. “The world does not need another hash­tagged sun­set.” Pages later, though, she shares an epiphany reached when col­leagues ad­mon­ished her for filling their Face­book time­lines with too many pic­tures of her in­fant son: “The an­swer isn’t fewer baby pic­tures; it’s more baby pic­tures,” she writes. “It’s not that I should post less; it’s that ev­ery­one else should post more.” In the end, the reader is left with many unan­swered ques­tions. Should mom In­sta­gram a cute photo of Ju­nior play­ing? Or put the phone down and en­joy the mo­ment? Or give the phone to Ju­nior to im­prove his tech skills? And how could that photo af­fect Ju­nior’s fu­ture job prospects? Read­ers look­ing for gen­eral rules of thumb to ap­ply to their own on­line so­cial lives will be dis­ap­pointed. Zucker­berg notes that peo­ple can be cruel on the In­ter­net — now there’s a rev­e­la­tion — but she ad­vises read­ers to put their “big-girl pants on” and “em­brace the haters.” Since at­ten­tion is cur­rency in the new on­line world or­der, even the at­ten­tion of haters is worth “celebrating.” “Love me, hate me, just don’t for­get me,” she writes. Un­for­tu­nately for Zucker­berg, the book is largely for­get­table. Wendy Sawatzky is as­so­ci­ate ed­i­tor dig­i­tal news at win­nipegfreep­ress.com and com­man­der in chief at wendy­sawatzky.com.

RICHARD DREW / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Zucker­berg pro­vides lit­tle prac­ti­cal ad­vice to help read­ers man­age their on­line lives.

Dot Com­pli­cated Un­tan­gling Our Wired

Lives By Randi Zucker­berg HarperOne, 256 pages, $28

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