It's in our nature to solve problems, and problem solving can lead to tidy solutions: in math, for example, it's inordinately gratifying to work out that X=6. But that same propensity to resolve a thorny equation down to a simple integer often leads us to ignore the complexities of human behavior, seeking instead to attribute a single, base motivation for all of our actions.
I'll show you what I mean. Remember when those instant messages came out? The ones in which Zuckerberg, referring to the 4,000 college students who had supplied the then-nascent Facebook with their emails and personal data, says, "They 'trust me.' Dumb f&@ks." How did you react when you heard he had said that? "What a jerk," right?
That was my reaction. But here's the thing: pretty much every IT geek I know has a mouth fouler than the post-spill Gulf. "C*%t" is a term of endearment for these guys, and profane yet totally non-malicious mockery is standard daily fare. If any of them ever stumbled on the next killer app, their chat logs would destroy any hope they had of a decent reputation -- and yet, for these guys, the raunchy language doesn't make them any more evil than a nose ring or a tattoo would.
On the off chance you're thinking, "I would never say something so patently disrespectful," just ask yourself if you've ever made a joke that could be taken the wrong way. Ever mocked your boss or your mother-in-law? Ever said something and thought, "Did I just say that out loud?" We all have -- cut yourself some slack.
I don't know if Zuckerberg was joking or not with the IMs, and I have no idea whether he started Facebook to change the world or to get laid. I suspect, though, that any attempt to boil down his actions to a single base motivation ignores the complexities of human nature.
So let's move on to something more important: Does anyone care? And, by "anyone," I mean any of the 500 million people currently supplying the no-longer-nascent Facebook with our emails and personal data. Doesn't look like it. Here's Facebook's history: a couple people got disgusted with Beacon, a few more with the IMs, some more with opt-out instant personalization, yada yada yada. Signups continue to climb and users continue to hand over our information. Facebook's latest announcement -- that we can now export all our data, making it a theoretically simple matter to leave them -- simply demonstrates the extent of our collective Stockholm syndrome.
It's not only Facebook: despite Streetview stealing our data and despite one of its engineers (since fired) spying on teens' Google accounts, we continue to stick with Google, whose market share sat at 72.15% for September. We are neither fools, nor suckers, nor gluttons for punishment. For now, we have simply made the decision that the utility provided by these services is greater than the moral transgressions of their people. Perhaps we just realize there's more to these books than what's on their covers.