Walking into the Marriott Center, I wasn't sure what to expect from Orrin Hatch and Mark Zuckerberg, but I did think what resulted was a little odd. The stage was "cosily" set with two arm-chairs and a coffe table with flowers on it which only served as a place where Mark could let his bottle of orange juice rest. I don't know. Did anyone else think that was funny? Everything started well. The questions were slightly boring, but I felt that Mark answered them intelligently and honestly; overall, he seemed like a pretty personable guy.
The forum served as an interesting clash of cultures:
Mark Zuckerberg - 29, Harvard drop-out, youngest billionaire in the world
Senator Orrin Hatch - 77, Republican, longest-serving state senator in Utah
The forum served as an stage showing how different these guys are.
Senator Hatch, while having a general sense of what Facebook is, he doesn't really know what it is. From the questions he asked and his approach in general, he sees it as an financial opportunity. Something that can help build the economy and create jobs. In fact, that's what he talked to Zuckerberg about over the summer. Well yes, and no. part of what makes Facebook incredible is how few people it takes to run. Zuckerberg pointed this out himself when he state that a staff of 2,000 serves 500,000,000. Do you see all those zeros. And that number is growing everyday. It was odd for Senator Hatch to say that one of the questions students were most interested in was "how they can work for facebook". It ran counter with everything that Mark had been saying, and truthfully, I think it was the farthest thing in most of our minds. I don't know many kids who are thinking "I want to work for facebook when I grow up." They want to create something new, something that's their own. Facebook isn't going to hire TONZ more people. It doesn't need to hire in order to expand. It is already taking over the world.
It was also pretty funny when Senator Hatch asked which classes students should take to be able to create something like facebook (or whatever it was he said). Zuckerberg kind of laughed at that one considering he dropped out of college. Do you know who else dropped out of college? Steve Jobs. Oh yeah, and Bill Gates. You don't learn how to be creative in a classroom. Innovation happens on your own time through dedication, practice, and desire. Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers talks about this. It is worth your time.
The real power of Facebook isn't in the capital it generates, but in how it is changing the way we interact as a society. We have already seen how it is a catalyst for change, dialogue and revolution. I know that sounds dramatic, but we have seen over the past few months how this is true. I was dying, DYING for a question about the role of social networks in cases like Egypt (some other kids in the audience had the same idea), but it seemed Hatch was interested in other things. I was super bummed. Zuckerberg touched on this subject when he mentioned peace.facebook.com and also Khan Academy. Super cool.
This article does a pretty good job of covering the forum.
Social media is huge. duh. But we don't know what to do with it. We have a revolutions being triggered all over the middle east with these networks serving as a backbone. And what do we do with facebook? Farmville. I feel dumb about my Lent resolution. To take yourself out of facebook is to exclude yourself from the world, really. I'm excited to go back in and see what changes we can make.