I used to think Mark Zuckerberg wanted to take over the world.
Now I know he does.
And I, for one, will be cheering him on and helping him any way I can.
Last week I participated in Facebook's first Communities Summit. I got to see and listen to Zuckerberg up close and personal. I walked away believing it's impossible to be near him or anyone that works with him without feeling like these Facebook folks truly believe there's value in every human life. It fuels their obsession for connecting us. They get high off of helping us discover our own personal value grows exponentially when we multiply it by the value of togetherness.
It's an obsession they wear on their faces. It pours out of every interaction with them.
Why on earth are they all so bent on us connecting?
This is what Zuckerberg told us at the summit:
“Connecting friends and family has been pretty positive, but I think there is just this collective feeling that we have a responsibility to do more than that and also help build communities and help people get exposed to new perspectives and meet new people -- not just give people a voice, but also help build common ground so people can actually move forward together.”
I'm not sure there was one person sitting at the summit, I'm not sure there's one person reading those words right now, who doesn't love the sound of moving forward. Especially if you reflect too long on the current stagnate state of our divisiveness.
Wouldn't it be nice to wake up one day from our unending arguments about what direction the world should go and discover we're actually moving in a common direction?
Several years ago I would have been thinking what you might be thinking right now. This Zuckerberg guy's a dreamer. Maybe even a bit whacked out. We live in a world of disunity and no amount of "likes" and "shares" is going to change that. You can Facebook live that little let's get connected speech to every world peace loving group on Facebook, Mark, and we're still going to be hopelessly devoted to telling one another how we should be living instead of finding the common good in the way we are living.
But that was several years ago.
I was actually at the summit representing about 16,000 people in the Meg's Miles Supporters Facebook group. The group formed when a young woman in my community, Meg Cross Menzies, was hit and killed by a drunk driver back in 2014. Shortly after, 100,000 people joined together on Facebook to run and pledge their miles in Meg's memory. They ran a million or so miles in every state in our country and in countless other countries around the world. And that was all in response to one-single-Facebook post by one of Meg's grieving friends.
I've seen responses to tragedy like this before. Heartbreaks going viral isn't anything new. A mass inclination to do something - anything at all to bring comfort - we've been there. But you know what I haven't seen? I haven't seen heartbreak branch into a thousand runaway vines of togetherness.
I now have more best friends than I've ever had in my life. A majority of them I met online as a result of that first post, many of whom I've since met in person. They help me out when I need them and they know I stand ready to return the favor. I've become attached to their families. I donate to their kids' fundraisers - we've had to build a room addition to house girl scout cookies. In fact, the size of my family has grown so that I'd need to rent out Madison Square Garden for a true family reunion.
Here's the beauty of my growing family. It includes people who've never been a part of my family before: gay people, atheists, people of all sorts of colors, horse and dog and cat lovers, runners, movie addicts, far left democrats and far right republicans and some very middle ground variations of something quite different in between. And on and on and on it goes. My family is now filled with diversity. I suppose you can see that as a knock against me and my shallow past. I own that knock. But I see it as overwhelming evidence of the power of Facebook.
What Facebook has always understood is the power of story. By creating a platform for us to share our stories with one another they've managed to educate us about the often tragic difference between acceptance and connected. Acceptance says I hear your story and I promise not to let in stand in my way of getting where I want to go. Connected, however, is I hear your story and it's a beautiful reason for us to navigate this world together.
I've seen that education take root in the Meg's Miles group I belong to. I've seen it grow from a single post about a single relatively simple human being into a group of thousands of diverse people running together, step for step, on a mission to spread goodness into the world. I've seen it work better than any other goodness strategy I've seen in my 53 years on earth.
Facebook's brilliance actually comes in their ability to weave their complex technological platform together with their understanding of the human need to love and be loved. They removed all religious and cultural overtones in their masterpiece so we can simply focus on each other. Because left to our own devices, those overtones often distract us away from the beautiful human stories we tend to bury beneath worldly stereotypes and misunderstandings.
I think that's Mark Zuckerberg's platform when it comes to his campaign for taking over the world. And maybe it's not so much taking over as it is taking out. Taking out all the hateful noise that keeps us from discovering the beauty in each other. He's not been perfect in his campaign, for sure. You can find hate anywhere. But he's done it better than anyone I've ever seen.
So if Mark Zuckerber is truly trying to take over the world, for what it's worth, I have his back.