In Search Of: The Real Mark Zuckerberg

In the wake of this week’s F8 Conference, where Facebook gathered an ungodly number of frothing developers to talk about the fate of the social web, we got to see another example of Mark Zuckerberg on stage.

As Kara Swisher has so infamously joked, Mark is not exactly known for his on stage antics, so much as the news he delivers when he takes the stage.  And having watched him for a few years, I have come to some conclusions about him as a presenter.

It seems very clear that Mark is a very guarded person (understatement), and doesn’t actually enjoy cutting lose on camera, on stage, or really anywhere in the public eye.  And by “cutting lose” I don’t mean getting busted smoking a joint via someone’s cell phone camera, but showing us the real guy behind the stiff guardedness that characterizes his public interactions.

We seem to have a hard time reconciling what he looks like - jeans, hooded sweatshirt, his very winning smile, etc – and the very formal, clipped language he uses to speak to reporters, audiences, and even his own webcam (thank GOD for the outtakes at the end).

But what we saw at this year’s F8 was a far less awkward “Zuck,” as his friends call him.  He’s coming into his own, and is much more confident and even stately on stage.  But still, he gets heat for not being dazzling.  Why?

Well, I think at the core of all of this, we all have a Geek/Wunderkind Founder archetype in our minds that we love to imagine – self deprecating, nerdy, nice, funny, hyper in his own way.  This is not Mark Zuckerberg.  He may be young, but he is intense and deadly serious about the business he’s building.

(One of my favorite moments of him on camera ... not in a good way ... is when he was interviewing with 60 minutes, and the interviewer compared him to the legendary founders of Google.  His silence prompted to interviewer to say, “do you have a reaction to that?” And he deadpans, expressionless: “Well is that a question or a statement?”)

But here’s the thing: Mark Zuckerberg is not the Geek/Wunderkind Founder archetype we wish he were. Sorry.  The good news is that he’s getting more confident and competent as a speaker.  The bad news is, we’ll have to get our Lovable, Scruffy Nerd needs met elsewhere.

It really is the ultimate irony… Zuckerberg has become a gazillionaire by building a website where people go to express themselves in full.  Yet he may be one of the least expressive 25 year olds I’ve ever seen.

But no matter.  Judging by this video, there is an army of personalities inside Facebook that are compelling as hell on camera, and bring their glorious levity, excitement, and frankly unapologetic geek-thusaism to the business.