First Look and Giveaway–Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives by Randi Zuckerberg

Randi Zuckerberg signing her book. Image: Zuckerberg Media, Dotcomplicated.co
Image: HarperCollins

This post is sponsored by HarperCollins.

Randi Zuckerberg is known to most because of her familiar last name. But where Randi and her brother Mark deviate is precisely where she begins her new book, Dot Complicated. It’s that moment where, after an immense town hall event with President Barack Obama goes off without a hitch (though not without an absolute metric ton of work), that Zuckerberg–in her last weeks of pregnancy–realizes that her life can’t be just about the big blue F. That being part of Facebook, a company she joined with reservations and later defined herself there as a forward-thinking (see her involvement in the 2008 elections and her contributions to the conversation) and unforgettable presence, isn’t a good fit any longer. There’s something more, even if at that moment she isn’t sure what it is.

And it’s that event that really propels the book forward and brings Zuckerberg to her new calling, that of a social media guru of sorts, digging beyond the technology and through to the real meat of the matter: the people, the connections, and the complications brought on by social media. Since she’s had such a front seat to the social media boom, she’s definitely an ideal host, and the book is very much an extension of her website, DotComplicated.

Zuckerberg comes to the realization after an extensive tour around the country that her career should be more about the stories and less about the tech. She comes back with all sorts of questions–personal questions–that the rise of social media had provoked among her audience members. They’re questions anyone who’s visited a GeekMom convention panel will likely have heard: How do I protect my kids? How much is too much technology? How do I keep my husband from bringing his iPhone to bed? And she’s got great answers. Because it’s not just about a work-life balance, she insists; it’s a tech-life balance.

What follows are Zuckerberg’s personal stories (her son trying to get a picture frame to play his favorite Barney video is particularly endearing, as is the tale of all the Zuckerberg kids filming a Star Wars homage in their house as kids) and advice on maintaining privacy, balance, and sanity in the online world. Sure, Facebook features from time to time as would be expected, but Zuckerberg’s bright personality shines through. Perhaps no one on earth is as close to social media as the Zuckerbergs, and yet it’s clear that the author still struggles with finding balance, changing her relationship status, and accidentally sharing things that should have been kept personal. That measure of experience goes a long way in a book like this.

But Zuckerberg also touches on the thought behind social dos and don’ts. Particularly informative for the geeks among us are the sections that put the social boom into perspective. When talking about the “grey zone” of privacy, she says:

Before the Internet arrived, the gray zone was there, but it was much smaller. You could be fairly certain that if you showed your vacation bikini pics to your friends, it didn’t mean your aunt and your aunt’s friends and some random guy you once went to high school with were also going to see, distribute, and comment on them.

Suddenly, a yearbook message doesn’t mean what it once did, especially considering that so many of us aren’t just in touch with our high school friends, but in some cases even elementary (or earlier) because of social media. With those connections, though, friendships can suffer. And Zuckerberg is clear that you can’t have it all. Yes, gadgets and connectivity are wonderful–and addictive. But if you don’t take time to take a deep breath and back off, to “retro” and “go out alone” (meaning without devices) every once in a while, you won’t truly experience life.

That sentiment reminds me of a similarly “retro” movie. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris is, without a doubt, a bit of a tech nerd. But he doesn’t have a cell phone. He doesn’t have Facebook. And yet he still understands that there’s so much noise out there, we’re all at risk of losing out what’s really imporatant. In his case, he makes life interesting simply by performing in his own movie and pushing everything to the very limit. But his sage advice is even more pressing now: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Dot Complicated reminds us that life is full of awesome things, online and off, but how we manage it is up to us. A truly fulfilled life isn’t perfect, but it’s balanced and approached with both eyes open. And possibly also carrying a lightsaber. Y’know, just in case.

Dot Complicated is available online and in stores, MSRP $27.99.

We’ve also got 3 copies of the book for our lucky readers. Just leave a comment below by midnight 11/7 and let us know how you keep your life from being too Dot Complicated, and you’ll be entered. We’ll pick three random commenters. 

This post is sponsored by HarperCollins.

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Natania Barron is a Gryffindor, a Took, and a Greyjoy (mostly because of the squid).