It takes a lot of guts to write a tell-all book about working for the largest social networking site in the world, Facebook. Phoenix native Katherine Losse, who now resides in Marfa, Texas, held nothing back in her stinging narrative, The Boy Kings, about being employee number 51 for the organization and grinding it out for Mark Zuckerberg and crew from 2005-2010. In-between tales of what it was like climbing up from a customer support representative to Zuckerberg’s ghostwriter, Losse sprinkles in disturbing anecdotes concerning the loose company structure during the early days. Readers gain insight into sexism that permeated the team (lewd comments to female employees were brushed under the rug), how the hierarchy worked (if you were a developer, you were golden; if not, not so much) and tales of the partying that often blurred into work hours.
Indeed, the world she paints is reflective of the title, but the book goes beyond just spilling juicy details of the oft-talked-about company – it brings up more important themes of whether social media is really making us more connected, or whether it’s merely forcing us to become slaves to our devices and miss out on the real-world interactions that are really meaningful.
Losse took some time to talk to AZ Tech Beat about her thoughts on the themes brought up in the book – and yes, she is still friends with her “romantic interest” in the book, Thrax.
Why did you want to write the book?
Katherine Losse: To me, the book is really about the digitalization of our lives. We’ve all seen our lives get pulled online really quickly, and we all do all our interactions with each other through phones and computers, which is totally a different way of interacting. It’s really interesting that’s happened…I really felt like, especially because of my experience, I had seen the stuff develop earlier and had background on how our world changed so quickly.
How do you hope the book affects people who have become a part of the digitalization?
KL: I think the next question for social media and the people developing technologies is, “Do we want to keep doing social media that’s been done the first wave of companies?” If you look at a lot of the apps we have now, they’re all kind of similar, and people kind of like them and view and comment, but it’s a very linear way of looking through our lives and technology. I think something people could be asking is, “How do we want to do it? What is another way?” I just kind of wanted to get people thinking of this question of how we want to use apps and what are the apps, as opposed to having the most technology.
Do you think social media is making us more disconnected in personal interactions?
KL: I think it’s changing how we know each other because we see each other through photos a lot and from afar, which is a different way of knowing each other than just face-to-face or through a phone call. It’s this weird constant viewing of people and different moments in the past as opposed to sitting down and talking with them.
If you think about it, when you talk to your friend in person, you pick up on all these different emotions, and it’s much more fluid, whereas through texting and social media, it’s a little more distant. It’s important to have more of a balance. We’ve seen a huge revolution in how we interact, and that happened so quickly.
What is the balance? How do we interact? Technology is changing how we want to act. I still use all these social networking sites, but I think I might use them with more distance or reserve. Sometimes you have to take a step back and think, “Is this the way I want people to know me?”
Do you foresee any type of backlash against social media, and what do you think is needed to start that?
KL: I don’t think it’s as much of a question about backlash as much as it is evolution. It’s not a backlash as much as it is getting more sophisticated about our lives.
If a young group of women, versus a young group of men, had started Facebook, how do you think the site would have been different?
KL: You see so much ranking going on in Facebook — every post has numbers attached to it. It’s not that women don’t think numerically, but that to me feels like it comes from a very particular place and a very algorithmic mind, and it’s possible if a different demographic had created the product, it might have been more conversations than emphasis on photos. I think you definitely see a very strong focus on the visual and ranking.
I think it’s not necessarily natural for all of us to think that way – “What rank would I assign to this situation?” I think about, “How did that make me feel, and how fun was it?” I don’t think Facebook is making us think that way, but people may not have noticed that’s how interactions happen on Facebook. Techologies reflect what the creators value, and it’s calling attention to that.
You mention your love of revolution in the book. Do you feel like writing this is your own form of revolution in a way?
KL: I’m really happy these conversations are happening. I think the book isn’t exactly about sexism in the workplace, and I’m excited to start and participate in the bigger conversation.
What’s next for you?
KL: I love writing, so I’m sure I’ll do more of that. I’ll have to focus on this conversation for awhile, but I have lots of other interests.
You grew up in Arizona. What are your feelings toward the Valley?
KL: I feel like Arizona makes me a little independent, and that’s a quality that’s appreciated
I’m a big fan of the Arizona tech scene, and I hope it grows. I’ll be watching.