Randi Zuckerberg on what it means to be 'Dot Complicated' (Q&A)

The famous sister of Mark Zuckerberg tells CNET about growing up on social media and explains why she feels compelled to help adults and children unravel their "wired lives."

Delbarr Moradi

Randi Zuckerberg knows a thing or two about complications caused by the Internet.

The sister of Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has seen her fair share of controversial choices or awkward missteps become fodder for attacks from those who view her as the ultimate benefactor of nepotism.

After serving as Facebook's marketing director for six years, Zuckerberg struck out on her own with Zuckerberg Media, a media and production company that fashioned her an executive producer of the oft-panned Bravo reality television flop "Startups: Silicon Valley." She's also the lead singer for a cover band called Feedbomb, which is comprised of past and present Facebookers.

Come fall 2013, we'll all get to read more about her online and offline adventures, as the other Zuckerberg is turning her overexposed existence into a lifestyle book entitled "Dot Complicated" for HarperCollins. She's also penning a companion picture book for children that will also be released this fall.

CNET went to Zuckerberg to get the scoop on the pending publications, and we couldn't help but ask about how her brother feels about her putting their private lives on display. Our questions and her answers are included in their entirety below.

Q:What does the title, "Dot Complicated," mean to you and why do you feel it best describes your story?
Zuckerberg: Technology has changed virtually every part of our lives. We live in a world of such rapid innovation - as the tools change, so do the social norms and etiquette that go with them. While many things have gotten easier and more efficient, many aspects of our day-to-day lives and managing our personal relationships have become a lot more complicated. That's why I'm so excited to be writing Dot Complicated, because I am passionate about helping people untangle their modern, wired lives.

Personally, along with being part of the team that built Facebook from early on, I also grew up on social media. These tools have affected how I raise my son, how I balance my career, and how I interact with friends and family, to name a few. I've seen firsthand how this new digital era can be both wonderful, and utterly complicated, at the same time. I can only imagine how confusing things must feel for millions of people who use these tools, every single day, and don't live right in the heart of all the action. If I can use my own experiences, knowledge, and lessons learned to help other people navigate their modern, digital lives (while having some fun along the way,) I would consider the book a huge success.

Who do you see as the primary audience for the book and why do you feel the need to publish your story now?
Zuckerberg: There's a lot of great content out there about "technology" or about "lifestyle" -- but I saw a gap missing at the intersection of the two. How technology is changing the way we interact with the people around us, how it affects our love lives, our personal lives, our work lives. My hope is that the book will be interesting and useful to a broad audience, whether you are a lightweight consumer of these tools, a parent who wants to stay up-to-date with the latest trends "the kids are using," a student who wants a competitive advantage in the job market, or a business who wants to better understand the modern consumer's habits and social issues.

The reason for publishing the story now is that I just launched my newsletter, also named Dot Complicated a few weeks ago. The newsletter has already received such positive early traction and feedback, that I felt the timing was right to expand it into a book as well, especially since the book process requires a lengthier timeline. I plan to discuss many of the topics we cover in my Dot Complicated newsletter -- complexities of the modern, digital world we live in -- including issues around etiquette, privacy, social, identity, career, love, family, and more. I will also discuss where social media is heading and how it will continue to influence every facet of our modern world -- from our personal relationships and professional careers to the bigger picture of global initiatives and politics.

It's also a great time for me personally to be publishing this book, as I'm navigating how to balance my career and new motherhood and how to raise my son the right way in this digital age. I've engaged with a lot of people online who are grappling with similar challenges and questions and I feel strongly that right now is the time for that approachable voice of technology. I didn't want to limit the audience, which is why I'm working on both an adult nonfiction book, as well as a children's book, with HarperCollins. In this digital world we live in, it's important for children to be tech-savvy and to understand the benefits and risks of technology from early on. Which means speaking to them directly.

Is there anything that will surprise readers? Can you provide a few examples?
Zuckerberg: I think what has surprised me the most in my research and conversations, is that no matter where in the world you go, no matter if you're speaking to someone in Silicon Valley or Nebraska, Dubai or Delhi, we're all grappling with the same issues related to technology and our lives. I did a lot of public speaking last year, and no matter where I went, people always asked the same questions: how can I better understand what my children are doing online? How can I ask my significant other not to immediately reach for their tablet in bed? How can I make sure I don't lose my job to someone who is younger and more tech-savvy? I plan to address many of these topics in the book -- some of the topics may surprise readers, or feel slightly uncomfortably familiar/intimate at first, but when you break past the news about the latest gadgets, devices, updates, and software, you realize that technology is nothing without the humans on the other side of it. These are issues that affect all of us in our own lives and need to be openly discussed as a society.

Can you share one of the funnier anecdotes you plan to include in the book?
Zuckerberg: There are too many to choose from. Because tech and pop culture are coming together more closely every day, I've had the opportunity to check things off my bucket list I never dreamed I'd be able to do, like walking the red carpet for The Golden Globes, getting a personal phone call from The White House, and hosting a live video chat with United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and rock band Linkin Park ... together. I can't give away all my good stories just yet, but suffice it to say that I think readers will be thoroughly entertained, as well as educated.

The Bravo show "Startups: Silicon Valley" rubbed many people working in the technology industry the wrong way. Will you discuss the show, the cast, the ratings, and address the critics in the book?
Zuckerberg: Of course I'll talk about the show in the book. It will just be a small part of the book, as I have so much content to cover, and this was just one experience I am lucky to have been part of, but I've done a lot of reflecting over the past few months on what I think the future of media/television looks like in the digital age -- and I've purposefully remained quiet about everything, so I can write about it for the first time in the book. I hope that readers will be pleasantly surprised by and interested in the learnings I have to share, based on my recent experiences working with Bravo and other media partners.

Do you expect Dot Complicated to incite a strong negative reaction among Valley types?
Zuckerberg: You know, it seems that these days, everything that anyone does incites a strong negative reaction, doesn't it? It's so easy to hide behind our online handles and criticize others. I'm just focused on doing the best work I can, and through this project, helping people navigate their complicated, wired lives. Of course not everyone will agree with every single thing I have to say -- and I wouldn't want them to! Would you honestly want to read a book that didn't have anything provocative, controversial, or thought-provoking in it?

The tone of Dot Complicated will be friendly, informative, and a little bit sassy -- just like our newsletter. I'm thankful for all of the great feedback we've been receiving on the newsletter, which in turn is helping me shape the book so that it reaches readers at a raw, human, and relatable level.

Has your brother expressed any concern about a nonfiction book that relates stories from your personal life, stories that will surely include details about his own private life?
Zuckerberg: The book will draw from some of my own personal experiences, in order to tell a broader story about the complexities of our wired world. Some media outlets have called this book a "memoir," which makes me laugh, because that couldn't possibly be further from the truth of what this book is. Who writes a memoir at age 30?! My goal with this book is to spark dialogue and inspire people of all ages to embrace technology and the new sets of norms that come with sharing content online -- something my family has always been supportive of.

 

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