Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, recently polluted social media feeds with a photo of himself on a run through Tiananmen Square as part of the fitness challenge “A Year of Running.” The Harvard dropout was in Beijing for an economic forum, as well as to continue his so-far-futile attempts to convince China’s top brass that letting Facebook past the Great Firewall is a good idea. However, despite his obvious brown-nosing over the years attempting to ingratiate himself with the country, some were quick to point out a very important fact his research appears to have missed.
China has a bit of a smog problem, and Beijing on the day of Zuckerberg’s run was in particularly fine form: the city’s air pollution index was over 10 times the safe level determined by the World Health Organization. Many aren’t even outside at such times, let alone going for a jog. To boot, Zuckerberg and his energetic entourage were completely unprotected, forgoing the commonly found air-filtering masks—a decision his lungs likely rued instantly.
Needless to say, Zuckerberg is well-aware of the air-quality issues China faces. His run was likely partly, if not completely, staged. What better way to try and cozy-up with propaganda leaders than to attempt to show Beijing in a “refreshing” light? And it’s partially for this posing that the man is being heavily criticized—painting a false image.
However, as usual, the world has raised one hand in protest while the other does precisely that which the first is so opposed to.
Is there a very real health concern in China? Of course. But if Zuckerberg is trying to schmooze his way in, does posting a running photo that features mask-clad runners help his agenda?
The Facebook CEO has proven why he’s the head honcho at the social media giant: he’s perfectly embodied the culture of social media. We project the images we want the world to see. We heavily curate our body of images to sculpt online presences. If there’s a photo we don’t want on our profile we can remove it from our timeline. If we’re tagged in an embarrassing photo, or one that simply doesn’t fit with the feeling we’re trying to create, we can untag ourselves and move on.
How many Instagramers do you know who spend the longest time lining up the perfect shot, taking it multiple times, and then posting it as if it were a casual nothing? Social media is a great deal like the fellow who spends hours on just-got-out-of-bed hair: wanting to display an effortless (while being anything but) cool.
So Zuckerberg has gone and done just that. He’s made a run in smog look like a breeze. The photo may be a misleading lie in almost every sense, but is it right to call him on something anyone with even the slightest interest in the story likely does themselves?