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After a mostly unflattering portrayal in a movie that became a box office hit, more concerns about privacy and advertising, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg gets to end the year on a high note: he’s been chosen Time magazine’s Person of the Year. It comes barely a week after Zuckerberg received a largely admiring look from 60 Minutes.
More than anything else, this latest round in the media cycle shows off how much more polished and media savvy the Facebook founder has become since his painful, squirming appearance at the D8 conference just this past summer (though favorable coverage can make anyone look good, of course).
Time’s reasoning for awarding Zuckerberg this accolade: “For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them; for creating a new system of exchanging information; and for changing how we all live our lives…” The long profile that follows offers up the familiar psychographic profile — unlike the The Social Network’s drama, Zuckerberg was anything but a reclusive loner as well as musings on the business and nature of social media (what if, “instead of feeling forced to share, we won’t be able to stop ourselves from sharing – that we will willingly, compulsively violate our own privacy,” the article asks.)
The admiring tone cracks a bit when the article’s author asks Zuckerberg about E.M. Forster’s novel about class struggle in Britain at the end of the 19th century, Howards End. The novel summed up by attempts to bring three families who represent the various social strata to some better understanding of each other (“Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer….”). Upon relating that notion of “only connect” to Facebook and mentioning Forster’s name, the Time writer gets only a “spider stare” from Zuckerberg. “He’d never heard of him.”
If that piques your interest, Time also has an essay by managing editor Richard Stengel titled, Only Connect, which references another writer Zuckerberg probably hasn’t read, Virginia Woolf. Most interestingly, the runners-up for Person of the Year were The Tea Party, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and The Chilean Miners.