Mark Zuckerberg joins Sheryl Sandberg in revealing life’s hard parts on Facebook

There are personal topics that most people, and particularly corporate leaders, tend to keep from public view.

But at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer, broke new ground in recent months with painful, moving posts about dealing with her and her children’s grief after the death of her husband.

In that vein, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to reveal on Facebook that he and his wife Priscilla Chan experienced three miscarriages breaks new ground in what a prominent business person, particularly a man, will disclose.

Zuckerberg took to Facebook mostly to announce that he and his wife were expecting a daughter.

But he also addressed directly what miscarriage can feel like:

You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you — as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.

Other executives have talked about personal struggles but typically in interviews. Sergey Brin of Google talked to Wired about how he carries a gene associated with Parkinson’s. Sean Parker talked about his allergies when he donated $24 million to create an allergy center at Stanford.

A year ago, Tim Cook wrote a personal essay on Bloomberg announcing he is gay.

Famously, Steve Jobs talked about his illness and what he hoped was just a brush with death in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford.

But no one, to my knowledge, has come close to Sandberg and Zuckerberg in disclosing the hard parts of life.

Could it be that they do so because they want to make Facebook a safe place for this kind of personal sharing? Maybe.

Facebook has often been knocked for being the place for people to put an ultra-positive sheen on their lives. If even more people become comfortable to live, as Sandberg and Zuckerberg appear to do on Facebook — touching on their personal pain and suffering, that would surely result in more stickiness on the site.

Or maybe they do so to boost user trust of them, and thus Facebook, in an era where many users worry about their privacy.

But I doubt that’s what is behind Zuckerberg’s sharing of the personal.

It is said that the best TV reporters are the ones that relate to the camera, who really feel they were talking to someone. I see Sandberg and Zuckerberg the same way — for them, their personas are interwoven into Facebook, the medium they helped to create.

Like them, Facebook is earnest and heartfelt, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. And it is a medium with a nice bright boundary. Share the hard parts of life, and you don’t have to deal with everyone else’s reaction. Just post and move on.

Above: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. (Kirstina Sangsahachart/ Daily News)


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  • edwardia monteroyo

    Why is this news? Is the celebrity suffering so notable as to merit an article for the Merc? Lame.

  • Yes, sadly, life often is hard for megalomaniacs just as it is for ordinary people. It’s not that we’re better than them – we just haven’t had the opportunity to be as ruthless in our own business dealings as they’ve been, and on such a vast scale.