The digital age is hard to navigate. Nobody understands the pressures of Web 2.0 quite like Randi Zuckerberg, who not only led the marketing team at Facebook during its infancy but is the big sister of tech tycoon Mark Zuckerberg. Her first book, Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives (HarperOne, Nov.) is already a best-seller and is published simultaneously with the children’s companion Dot.
You’re obviously busy. So why did you decide to write Dot Complicated?
There were a few reasons. Not a lot of people know about women in technology. And most people know the story of Facebook through an engineering perspective; the stories they know about the founding team were about technology and the Silicon Valley. I wanted to write this book about technology as an outsider, a woman, a non-engineer.
Your willingness to share embarrassing or troubling moments is one of the book’s most compelling features. Can you talk about your decision to include personal (and sometimes embarrassing) stories?
I have always lived my life very publicly. It’s part of who I am. In my work, I was always on the front lines of using new technology, so sharing my gaffes and stupidity, I hoped, would help others embrace technology. All of us—even our business and political leaders—are living our lives in the public view now and it’s okay to make a mistake, and move on, and forget it.
What advice do you want to give people about using social media?
It’s important to be authentic. Gone are the days where we had separate identities at work and at home. If someone Googles you, they see everything, so it’s important to put your best foot forward always. Second, there’s a lot of talk about having to do it all—or multi-tasking. I want people to know that it’s okay to be well-lopsided. We don’t have to be perfect.
Part of your book focuses on children and safety as it relates to using technology. What are one or two key things parents can do to keep their kids safe?
It’s important to steer children, if they’re on the internet, toward sites where real names are used. Anonymous sites encourage cyber-bullying and when people are using screen names, it’s more likely that they’ll say things that they would never say to someone’s face. Also, SnapChat—there is a misconception that those images vanish. But it’s easy for someone to take a screen shot and then that image will be around forever. On the flip side, there are many positive things about children and technology. Children are better storytellers because of technology, they take beautiful visual photography, and they’re the best built-in IT support.
One of your points about technology is that it’s important to embrace it and also to “unplug.” Why is that?
It’s ironic, I know, as someone making a living in social media that I’m saying that. But all of the most successful people I know take time to unplug their devices and be by themselves, to be creative and to think about the “big” idea. Otherwise we’re constantly distracted by texts and e-mails and tweets.
You write that your personal mantra is “work, sleep, family, friends, fitness…pick three.” Which three do you pick most often?
It’s different every day. I allow myself to be well-lopsided. Right now I’m on a book tour so my choice is work, work, work. But when I return from the book tour, I’ll choose family and be well-lopsided that way. Sleep is something I don’t choose very often.
If readers learn just one thing from your book, what do you hope that is?
Life is too short to be anything except who you are. I embrace that. I am a business professional and a mom who loves to sing. The world has changed and our business leaders have become 360-degree people. It’s important to live that way all the time.
And, finally, what’s next for you?
We have several TV programs that I wish we could talk about but they’re still in development. We’re really building the “Dot Complicated” companion web community and newsletters right now. (Sign up for that e-newsletter at dotcomplicated.co today!)