Zuckerberg's stare 'borders on the psychopathic,' says ex-Facebooker

Technically Incorrect: A new book by a former Facebook employee makes working at Facebook sound not unlike being a Scientologist. It also says Zuckerberg was intent on destroying Google Plus.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Those eyes. That Roman emperor's hair. Does he still see Carthage?
Enlarge Image
Those eyes. That Roman emperor's hair. Does he still see Carthage?

Those eyes. That Roman emperor's hair. Does he still see Carthage?

Stephen Shankland/CNET

I've never been stared at by Mark Zuckerberg.

I just think I have.

So many pictures of the Facebook CEO seem to show him as enjoying the sort of stare that I normally associate with Tom Cruise when he's upset.

I am, therefore, overjoyed that I'm not the only one with this impression.

Vanity Fair has published an extract from a new book, written by former Facebook employee Antonio García Martínez.

Called "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley," it chronicles one employee's view of Facebook's golden era.

That would be the era in which the social network apparently vowed to crush Google Plus.

It seems quaint now, with Google Plus looking like a shorn, legless poodle. However, in those heady days of 2011, Zuckerberg put Facebook on so-called lockdown, says Martínez, a product manager between 2011 and 2013.

Zuckerberg apparently saw Google Plus as a mortal threat. So much so that he was moved to consider its total destruction.

"Rounding off another beaded string of platitudes," Martínez writes, "he [Zuckerberg] changed gears and erupted with a burst of rhetoric referencing one of the ancient classics he had studied at Harvard and before."

Zuckerberg had actually done some studying at Harvard? I thought he was too busy creating websites geared toward gawking at women.

But Martínez quotes the CEO as saying, "You know, one of my favorite Roman orators ended every speech with the phrase Carthago delenda est. 'Carthage must be destroyed.' For some reason I think of that now."

It's an odd comparison. Carthage was once one of the biggest cities in the known world. Though some at Google declared it the next big thing, Google Plus was a pimple on your forearm that you scratched because it looked ugly against your tan.

Still, Martínez says that posters bearing the motto Carthago Delenda Est were strewn about Facebook's offices.

Facebook declined to comment on this released portion of the book, which is due to be published June 28.

The extract offers a picture of Facebook as rather cultlike. It doesn't paint a prettier image of Google, but let's get a grip on Zuckerberg's stare. Martínez does. He says it was so intense and withering that it "bordered on the psychopathic."

Perhaps that's why Facebook's CEO might have offered one stare at Google Plus and seen the carnage once wished upon Carthage.

Some psychopaths -- and I wouldn't dream of suggesting Zuckerberg is one, as I'm not yet a clinician -- do have a tendency to see vast threats in every possible nook, cranny and human gesture.

Moreover, psychopaths also tend to disregard certain norms.

Coincidentally, Martínez writes that the engineers absolutely ran Facebook. He describes some of these engineers as "rage-filled."

"That was the uniquely piratical attitude," says Martínez. "If you could get s*** done, and quickly, nobody cared much about credentials or traditional legalistic morality."

Some must wonder whether, if this portrait is true, Facebook has changed all that much.

Recently, the company not only denied that it suppresses conservative opinions in the Trending Topics section, but also that it's surreptitiously using your phone's mic to listen in to your domestic chatter.

Will any true competition ever rise up to stare Facebook down?