Facebook’s company culture was like a religion, and Mark Zuckerberg like notorious cult leader Jim Jones, writes former employee Antonio Garcia Martinez in a new tell-all memoir.
In an extract from Martinez’ upcoming book, published in Vanity Fair, the author recounts how Facebook employees were indoctrinated into Zuckerberg’s cult:
All the early Facebook employees have their story of the moment when they saw the light and realized that Facebook wasn’t some measly social network like MySpace but a dream of a different human experience. With all the fervor of recent converts, newly recruited followers attracted other committed, smart, and daring engineers and designers, themselves seduced by the echoes of the Zuckian vision in others.
According to Martinez, the company developed its own rituals, including a “Faceversary” – the date an employee joined the company.
At Facebook, your start date was celebrated by the company the way evangelicals celebrate the day they were baptized and found Jesus, or the way new American citizens celebrate the day they took their oath in front of the flag. This event was called (really) your Faceversary, and every colleague would rush to congratulate you on Facebook (of course), just as normal people did for one another on their birthdays. Often the company or your colleagues would order you a garish surprise bouquet for your desk, with one of those huge Mylar balloons in the shape of a 2 or whatever. When someone left Facebook (usually around when the balloons said 4 or 5), everyone would treat it as a death, as if you were leaving the current plane of existence and going to another one (though it wasn’t assumed this next plane would be better than the current one). The tombstone of your Facebook death was a photo posted on Facebook of your weathered and worn corporate ID. It was customary to include a weepy suicide note/self-written epitaph, and the post would garner hundreds of likes and comments inside a minute.
Apparently this culture has payoffs. Martinez writes that Facebook employees became so dedicated to the company that their work came to mean more to them than the eye-watering sums of money they earned through doing it.
This culture is what kept 23-year-old kids who were making half a million a year, in a city where there was lots of fun on offer if you had the cash, tethered to a corporate campus for 14-hour days. They ate three meals a day there, sometimes slept there, and did nothing but write code, review code, or comment on new features in internal Facebook groups. On the day of the I.P.O.—Facebook’s victory rally—the Ads area was full of busily working engineers at eight P.M. on a Friday. All were at that point worth real money—even fuck-you money for some—and all were writing code on the very day their paper turned to hard cash.Facebook is full of true believers who really, really, really are not doing it for the money, and really, really will not stop until every man, woman, and child on earth is staring into a blue-bannered window with a Facebook logo. Which, if you think about it, is much scarier than simple greed. The greedy man can always be bought at some price, and his behavior is predictable. But the true zealot? He can’t be had at any price, and there’s no telling what his mad visions will have him and his followers do.
I submit he is an old-school genius, the fiery force of nature possessed by a tutelary spirit of seemingly supernatural provenance that fuels and guides him, intoxicates his circle, and compels his retinue to be great as well. The Jefferson, the Napoléon, the Alexander… the Jim Jones, the L. Ron Hubbard, the Joseph Smith. Keeper of a messianic vision that, though mercurial and stinting on specifics, presents an overwhelming and all-consuming picture of a new and different world. Have a mad vision and you’re a kook. Get a crowd to believe in it as well and you’re a leader. By imprinting this vision on his disciples, Zuckerberg founded the church of a new religion.