Book Review  

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee

Zucked is an interesting yet terrifying look at the culture behind the start-up that became Facebook, and its ever growing effect on modern society.

Written in a bright and breezy style by Roger McNamee, the book gives an insight into the early days of the fledgling start-up, where Mr McNamee acted both as an occasional adviser to a young Mark Zuckerberg and an early investor.

This allows the author to give a slightly closer insight than most into what went on in the company’s formative years, detailing pivotal points in the coorate evolution of the blue and white giant from its Harvard University campus origins.

Where this differs from the usual auto-biographical tale of an entrepreneur made good is in Mr McNamee’s focus on the social effects of the explosive growth of the Facebook brand.

 

The author cleverly outlines how the original Facebook aim of connecting the world eventually came true, but at the cost of actually driving people further apart.

It is fascinating to read how the libertarian values of Silicon Valley contribute to the growth of a company that has become almost Orwellian in scope, shaping the thoughts of millions with complex algorithms designed to keep users clicking.

Mr McNamee uses his unique perspective to help the reader understand the science behind the design, going into minute detail of how each pixel on screen is meticulously crafted to lower the behavioural barriers of the user, encouraging a form of social addiction.

The narrative culminates with Mr McNamee launching a campaign to bring awareness to the general public of what he has come to realise, which he is still fighting to do to this day.

Unfortunately, being a true story, this is where the book loses a little bit of steam, finishing with a fizzle rather than a bang.

If Mr McNamee set out to tell a compelling story of the rise and fall of a social media empire, he should probably have waited a few more years.

If the aim was just to raise awareness that your favourite blue and white icon on your mobile phone is actually a lot more than just somewhere to exchange photos of nights out and the occasional status update, I think it is an unequivocal success.

Ross Denton is a consultant at Altus

Published by Penguin Random House