Mark Zuckerberg's '60 Minutes' Interview Shows a More Confident Facebook CEO
Ever since the movie hit theaters, the real-world Zuckerberg has assumed a new and utterly strange kind of fame. He still shuns the limelight, and certainly doesn't reveal much about himself in the few interviews he grants. Yet the flames of public curiosity surrounding him continue to intensify, as both he and his creation (through no fault of his own, really) have become larger than life figures. In much the same way that Eisenberg's character is cast as the quintessentially millennial anti-hero, the real Mark Zuckerberg has become the quintessentially millennial anti-celebrity. All of which only heightened our anticipation for last night's extended interview. Here's what we took away from it.
Part 1: SnoozefestStahl wasted no time in getting straight to the point: Facebook's new Profile design. Using Zuckerberg's profile as an example, Stahl walked the audience through the revamped layout, which depicts user information in a more visual and succinct format. Essential information (hometown, education, city of residence) is now displayed prominently at the top of all profiles, favorite friends are listed vertically on the right sidebar, and a series of tagged photos are plastered atop the wall -- because, as Zuckerberg said, "People like photos!"
The rest of the interview, substance-wise, consisted of Stahl introducing the world to this wild and crazy thing known as Facebook, reviewing some of the latest additions to the social network, and asking the obligatory, softball questions about privacy. "We never sell your information," Zuckerberg reassured viewers, repeating a phrase he must have uttered at least five billion times.
Few people would blame you for falling asleep after five minutes (we almost did). But it's in the second half of the interview where things got slightly more interesting. Stahl turned her focus to the ongoing legal saga surrounding Facebook's origins, and tried to dig deeper into what makes Zuckerberg tick.
Part 2: Zuckerberg as Film CriticAfter halftime, Stahl kicks things off with a truly penetrating question about 'The Social Network': "Was it hard to watch, for you?" Zuckerberg begins by pointing out some "hugely basic things" that Fincher got wrong -- most notably, the fact that Zuckerberg has been dating his current girlfriend since before he even created Facebook. This detail, of course, throws a wrench into Fincher's entire plot mechanism, which revolves around the portrayal of Zuckerberg as a maniacal genius, out to create a new website and get girls. Stahl, for her part, is completely blown away by this revelation, which we thought was sort of common knowledge.
The other highlight of the evening was seeing the well-coiffed Winklevoss twins, in all their WASP-y glory. They're remarkably similar in appearance to the statuesque (and perfectly named) Armie Hammer, who portrays both twins in the film. In personality, they seem remarkably similar to spoiled brats, whining about their trust funds. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, was a far cry from the arrogant kid who tossed verbal spitballs at the twins during negotiations in Fincher's film. But he still managed to get in a deft swipe at their petulance. "I've probably spent less than two weeks of my time worried about this lawsuit at all," Zuck said. "After all this time, I feel bad that they still feel bad about it." Burned.
On balance, then, it'd be easy to say that Zuckerberg's '60 Minutes' of Sunday night fame didn't result in anything groundbreaking. He gave essentially the same responses we've heard for the past few months, he didn't throw daggers at the adversaries of his past, and didn't really stir any new controversy. But we were personally taken aback not by what Zuckerberg said, but how he acted.
Zuckerberg is Still Awkward...The robotic monotone, dead stare and halted speech cadence were all on full display last night, as was Zuck's throaty, 'Sesame Street'-esque delivery. He's clearly the only person in the world who can pepper his sentences with words like "y'know," "like," and "right?" and still come across as irritatingly pedantic. He still walks without moving his arms, has unnaturally orthogonal posture, and still seems like he's trying way too hard to be nonchalant. He certainly didn't ooze confidence, and he certainly didn't seem like someone we'd wanna have a beer with. Ever.
...But Not That AwkwardEven Stahl herself noticed that the CEO's demeanor had markedly changed since the last time she sat down with him, three years ago. His lips were twitch-free, he remembered to blink, and he wasn't sweating like Patrick Ewing, as he did during an intense interview at June's D8 conference.
He may have been filmed under forgiving light, but he even looked like someone who actually lives in California. His face was relaxed and healthy, and he didn't seem eager to get back to programming and drinking Muscle Milk in his basement. He patiently absorbed all of the interlocutor's questions, and seemed to be personally engaged in a conversation that most humans would consider normal.
When discussing the movie, in particular, he was even amusingly self-deprecating, adding that Fincher was spot-on in dressing Eisenberg in t-shirts and flip-flops. Even his geeky admissions to engaging in all-night hackathons with the rest of Facbeook's employees seemed more endearing than it did creepy. It's unclear whether Zuckerberg's been spending time with a PR coach, or whether he's simply grown more comfortable in his own skin. But whatever it was, he seemed noticeably more human in front of CBS' cameras last night.
Lesley Stahl doesn't like to ask hard questionsHer line of interrogation ranged from the annoyingly open-ended ("Do you ever just pinch yourself?") to the annoyingly absurd ("Is the goal for you to conquer the whole Internet?") The only "hard" question (according to Stahl) was: "How would you grade yourself as a CEO?" Zuckerberg seized upon the obvious opportunity to eat a slice of humble pie, and admitted that he'd made mistakes. Then, he reaffirmed his commitment to the Facebook mission, and reminded everyone that he could easily sell the site and become a billionaire right now, if he really wanted to. Yawn.
Granted, we weren't expecting CBS to put together an exposé as personally revelatory as Jose Antonio Vargas' piece in the New Yorker. Nor were we expecting anything as brilliantly insightful as Zadie Smith's recent essay in the New York Review of Books. Still, we can't help but think that Stahl could've dug a little deeper into Zuckerberg's psyche -- or, at the very least, into the parts of his personal life that don't involve his girlfriend and lawsuits. Maybe she could've even made him sweat -- if only for a second.
Then again, this clearly wasn't the Mark Zuckerberg of old, either. The interview may have been well scripted and the questions may have lacked bite, but this was still the kind of situation that used to turn Zuckerberg into a quivering leaf. Instead, he stood tall (figuratively, which was a first), and seemed self-assured. And, in the end, that said a lot more about him than any of his scripted responses ever could.