What poets and Mark Zuckerberg have in common

By Harriet Staff

On Thought Catalog, Liz Dosta writes of some of the philosophical requirements shared by poets and whiz kid internet entrepreneurs. Each are wired to construct a world that best allows their subconscious to play out, to establish the conditions to access their own creativity (and insecurities/fears/experience/hopes). She argues that, at least according to The Social Network, Zuckerberg's need for control and autonomy results in a product that looks an awful lot like his internal landscape. In her review for The New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith believes the entire worth of the enterprise hinges on Zuckerberg's motivations and by extension, that he's imposing his need to be liked on millions of users, who, one supposes would have been entirely confident, sociable creatures had they not subscribed to Zuck's neuroses mill.

Facebook, in Smith’s eyes, is not a means toward a real connection, and in this sense is a true reflection of Zuckerberg himself. He has been described as socially removed and somewhat awkward. Only someone like this could see Facebook as a meaningful way to connect to others because its distance offers an emotional safety for those who are socially inept. Facebook lacks that vulnerability gene that helps us relate to one another.

But despite the fact that it doesn't allow you to "personalize" your profile with sparkly butterfly gifs, Facebook is comprised of individual users who create their own worlds within the limits of the form. Dosta describes an almost-friendship ending disagreement over the idea that if you find your newsfeed and event invites shallow and boring, perhaps its a reflection that you yourself are shallow and boring or at the very least you're not working hard enough to filter out the noise that's keeping you from being productive, inspired and interesting.

Of course, many people, like Smith, refuse to create within the world of Facebook at all, but Dosta's point is that if you opt in to a form (or create your own), you better be prepared to believe in what you're creating because it's going to end up reflecting on you, whether you like it or not.

As an MFA student in poetry, we speak much about the construct of a creative world that we as poets inhabit in our poetry. We create our own logic, our own world with its own set of rules and ways. Wallace Stevens was notorious for creating intricate worlds of logic within his poems. And while we write this world, we also live in it. We are the master of our universe for the time that we are composing it. But I’m giving myself too much credit here. Some of the best poetry comes from a place that is often uncontrollable. I am the master only of my conscious self. But that primal element, the subconscious, has a mind of its own, and my job is to try and keep up with it as best I can. I consider myself lucky if and when I’m able to tap into it. When I do tap into it, I have visions of grandeur that this poem, my poetry, will become a new standard for living. I have to believe this. I have to believe that my poetry is the next big thing to happen to everyday living, the same way Zuckerberg believes that Facebook is the new standard for connecting and communicating with the outside world. And arguably, it has become just that with half the world currently on Facebook.