Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

It’s time to unfriend Facebook and “the algorithm”

Why I quit Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok for good

Yesterday, I deleted my Facebook account. 1

Ditto for Instagram. And, Snapchat. And, TikTok.

It is time to unfriend “the algorithm” before it’s too late. The writing is on the wall. 2 (no pun intended)


It is time to reclaim our Attention!


“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” — Steve Jobs

Breaking up with the algorithm across Facebook, Instagram, & TikTok leads to a re-evaluation of our lives. Why this matters now, more than ever before…

Apple’s a company that doesn’t have most resources of everybody in the world.3

The way we’ve succeeded is by choosing which horses to ride.

We try to look for these technical vectors that have a future, and that are headed up, and, you know, different pieces of technology kind kinda go in cycles.

They have their springs and summers, and autumns, and then they, you know, go to the graveyard of technology.

And, so we try to pick the things that are in their springs. — Steve Jobs on Products

The beauty of great storytelling is that it’s applicable across the board. This analogy is true for Apple, true for Facebook, and true for me. Facebook, in my opinion, is in its autumn (I’m sure they might think otherwise), but more importantly, I’m in my summer.

And if you choose wisely you can save yourself an enormous amount of work. And you can put your energy to make those technologies great on your platform.”

What I do with my time in my summer (let’s hope) “if I choose wisely,” I could save myself an enormous amount of work or trouble in the long-run.

And I choose to put my energy in people, platforms and work where I see the greatest upside for my growth, and their success. To Dylan and Jobs, a huge debt of thanks, for articulating this decision, in words that I couldn’t have stated with any more clarity.


It’s easier to quit the mafia than Facebook!


Now, the beauty of any mafia, as the saying goes “once you’re in the racket, you’re in it for life.4” But that’s true for any institution; whether it’s your family or Facebook or the Catholic Church. 5

“Once you’re in the racket, you’re in it for life.” — Al Capone

But, institutions, are in most cases not built with the individual’s interest at heart, given the numerous conflicting desires and goals. And, someday, sometime, one has to do the right thing and move away, when it’s affecting your mental health. And, as you very well know, the institutions will not make it easy on you leaving.

To leave Facebook is akin to leaving the mafia you find yourself in, if you go by the many hoops they try to make you jump through to delete your profile. It’s such a cynical ploy, and an understatement on how they perceive you and your attention.

Unflappable in their relentless attempts to derail your finite attention. They make it near impossible to take what is yours and leave. But enough is enough.

I am compelled to write down my version of what I went through to simply delete my Facebook profile, since (shockingly, despite being extremely social-media savvy) it took me a few Google searches, rifling through Facebook’s own documentation, and sighing bemusedly at how folks who work there get a good night’s sleep.


Three Clicks to Delete your Facebook Profile:


Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version on how to delete your Facebook profile. I wish I had this when I was attempting to do just that. Amazing, how much leeway we give bad faith operators in power, in this world. But, I digress.

Step 1: Find your “Settings & Privacy” (Top Right Hand Corner), then “Privacy Shortcuts”

Strange, yet obscure way to hide your delete Facebook button. But, I’ll go with this flow. The word “shortcuts” also throws you off, and having “Privacy Checkup” right above, also makes you wonder which road to take.

Masterfully deceptive, egregiously stupid, and (I bet) extremely effective, at dissuading you and making you want to give up, before you even begin. But, fear not, I got you and will lead you to the promised land.

Hit “Settings & Privacy,” then “Privacy Shortcuts.”

Once you figure out “Privacy Shortcuts” is the magic door that will lead to your escape, you are confounded by this page. Now, this is the entire page on my desktop iMac and a cursory glance (will NOT show you the delete button). Go on… I’ll wait.

Also, the category to place it under “Tools to help you control your privacy and security on Facebook” is also so intentionally misleading to make you wanna throw up. Regardless, scrolling down just a second, scrolled all the way to the bottom, under a sub-heading that says “Your Facebook Information” — “View or download your Facebook information at any time.” Wow. The mind boggles at such a brazenly disingenuous ploy to throw you off.

But, if you persist, and don’t blink, you’ll see the “Delete your account and information” before it disappears.

Step 3: Download Information, “Delete Account”

If you’ve come this far, you’re that much closer to deleting your Facebook account. Now all that stands between you and peace-of-mind, is to Download your information before hitting Delete. As you can see I had 1500 photos and 2500 posts, which I chose to download (just in case), but on perusing them I realize I had stopped uploading my pics to Facebook a while back, roughly 10 years, and these photos were good to have, but I could have lived without em.

I suspect your experience may vary. Regardless, hit that Download button, before you consider permanently deleting your Facebook account.

And, just like that you’re just a click away from deleting 17 years of time spent (some fruitful), and a lot of wasteful minutes across the Mark Zuckerberg Universe (MZU).

Hit Delete, and, just like that — “Serenity Now.” I haven’t thought about it for a second since, and I doubt I ever will.


Matters of Mental Health


I’ve written about my odyssey through mental health, across grief and time, over a year ago 6. A couple of things 7 have changed since then.

A global pandemic, civil strife, rogue actors, bad faith, and Orwellian technology that knows no bounds, has no keepers and brooks no maker of it. But, people chose to react to chaos in different ways. My initial reaction, and I think for a lot of us, in the early disorienting months (Feb – May 2020) were zoom happy hours, and that goes for virtual habits, including ones inhabited by the social algorithm.

But, this abundance, this fantasy, these distractions fed by any of those sources only causes the chaos to spread. In the middle of chaos, only stillness matters.

  • Stillness matters. It surfaces meaning.
    • Abundance messes with our minds. The world doesn’t live with abundance, and scarcity is a feature, not a bug. Pain & Grief, might be the highest versions of this, and possess deep meaning to life & death. But, the only way we can confront that is in stillness.
    • What the algorithm seems to promise, is a fantasy, and it’s time we saw it for what it is.
  • Dependence isn’t good.
    • I realize how much I depend on Facebook Connect to log into sites, and increasingly on voice-activated Alexa and Portal, understanding both Facebook and Amazon now hear every word I speak. And, just like in any abusive relationship, being dependent, or co-dependent is not something one should take for granted. It’s better late than never.
  • A bad friend, is deleterious to health
    • Alcohol, cigarettes, Facebook. Or the Algorithm.
    • The algorithm is worse than alcohol. It’s worse than cigarettes. And, please don’t say we were not warned. It’s time to quit relationships that don’t serve us well.

Just the process of extricating myself from the Facebook rabbit-hole was reminder enough that this was an abusive relationship that has gone on for too long.

But, as I’d mentioned in an earlier post, unfriending Facebook has its immense benefits to mental health. More than alcohol, more than cigarettes, more than eating habits (salt & sugar), more than our physical well-being, the “algorithm” slowly, but surely wraps itself around how we process the world itself. We find ourselves staring into Medusa’s eyes, turning into stone, and the sooner we curb this enthusiasm for distraction, and fashion it after our purpose; the better.


Dylan: ’Til our error we clearly learn


As an early part of LinkedIn, a huge Twitter evangelist (from back in the day to now), social media continues to be a critical part of my daily life and work. But, there’s a difference between that naive take on social networking, with which I was schooled, to today’s attention land-grab, that has me (and many folks I know), rethink the purpose of social media itself.

Someday in the (near) future, we’ll look at this experiment in the human condition, giving kids iPhones like doing out cigarettes, and turning a blind eye to the various genocides that large behemoths have turned a blind eye to, as atrocious.

But, for starters, I wanna reclaim my attention.

For what am I, without my thoughts.

As with all things in life, I’ll let Bob Dylan bring it home 8, spittin’ words of wisdom on technology, our abuse of it, and what it all means.

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled
Oh, man is opposed to fair play
He wants it all and he wants it his way

Now he's hell-bent for destruction, he's afraid and confused
And his brain has been mismanaged with great skill
And all he believes are his eyes
And his eyes, they just tell him lies

Leave no stone unturned
May be an actor in a plot
That might be all that you got
'Til your error you clearly learn

I, for one, am in no mood to make the choice to repeat my mistakes, spending time blithely whether it’s on vices we entrust with a lot of good faith — whether it’s Instagram or alcohol. So, goodbye and good luck to Mark, his minions, and my next glass of scotch.

Good Night, and Good Luck!


  1. 17 years in, though a phantom-limb phenomenon at this time, it’s a fully-grown teenager if I had a child at that point in my life, and it’s strange that it has accompanies a lot of my wins and successes in these years past. Still, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Fin. ↩︎
  2. Who doesn’t remember Facebook’s original “wall” posts, before “the feed” took over. Here’s a great piece by Taylor Lorenz, currently at The New York Times, on the day the wall died. “Sahil Kapur, a journalist in Washington, D.C., echoed Zoe’s sentiment: “Posting on someone’s Wall is more about public consumption than a real conversation. The wall did have a certain appeal when Facebook was a tighter-knit community of college students, but that changed.” ↩︎
  3. Coming from a company at its peak at the D8 Conference in 2010, when they had just surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable company in the world, might seem specious. But, Steve is right about one thing, no company has unlimited resources. No human, has unlimited attention. And, focus, is imperative for any and every goal one has in life. ↩︎
  4. Yep, that was Al Capone who said it. ↩︎
  5. As a recovering Catholic, I understand the role dogma plays in the vice-like grip that religions have on your “soul,” and hence your actions, your inability to make choices as you might freely. ↩︎
  6. Losing a parent, for the first time, will be the hardest thing you ever deal with in your life. The ground beneath your feet, and mind, shifts irrevocably. Now, toss in a breakup, work turbulence and you have a perfect storm. I did, and this was before the pandemic. Meditation, running and staying fit — mentally and physically — saved my ass and my life, arguably ↩︎
  7. Finding passion in career and a partner unlike any, is a start, and boy, did 2021 make up for 2020’s absolute decimation ↩︎
  8. Dylan’s “License to Kill” is a diatribe against technology’s wayward eye when we have major problems right here on planet earth. How resonant today, when there’s a debate about billionaire’s pet projects to Mars and the Moon, when we are faced with climate change, a pandemic and political unrest. ↩︎

Filed under: Facebook, Facebook, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Mark Zuckerberg, Mental Health, Productivity, Productivity Tools, Public Relations, Social Media Tools, TikTok, , , ,

The magic left the building with Jobs

I remember the moment Steve Jobs scrolled through his music and uttered those magical words – “scrolls like butter” – while illustrating the beauty of the original iPhone.

stevejobs1

It’s moments like this that you lived for, as a technology obsessed professional in Silicon Valley. And with Jobs we got to watch the Michael Jordan of technology, courtside, at his best. iPods, iPhones, iPads, the hits kept coming and Jobs made them look great.

So, it’s a pet peeve of mine these days when companies try to rip off Steve Jobs’ launch style. Not Apple’s style because the new PR machinery at Apple leaves a lot to be desired. But what Jobs created, no one else can put together, because it was and will always be classic Jobs.

Jobs in the above video is the same age as Zuckerberg is today. Incomparable!

Why “Public Relations” sucks?

Kevin Roose writes of the Applefication of Facebook PR in light of today’s Facebook press conference.

I’m sitting in the Facebook headquarters, in Menlo Park, in a room filled with the symphonic clicking of keys produced by hundreds of tech bloggers, all writing the same stories and updating the same live-blogs on identical Apple laptops.

Go on…

Zuckerberg has long departed — he was disappeared from a teeming pile of reporters and cameras and out a back door like a sitting president — so now it’s just us and the PR Borg. Oh, the PR Borg. Facebook’s communications staffers are paired up with reporters at demo stations, showing off Graph on a series of computers. The spares are milling around the room. There must be 50 of them — a phalanx of fresh-faced professionals with smiles on their faces and carefully scripted responses to our questions in their hip pockets.

These are today’s news factories. These are things I’d hoped would change with social media but frankly the hand that runs the machine continues to operate with an old playbook. And that sucks…

But wasn’t social media meant to change these things… Hold that thought.

Because no company can ever be Apple with Jobs 

I never went to an Apple event in the Steve Jobs era, but I gather that the pitch is nearly identical: the charismatic founder, the well-paced presentation, the subtle way that certain media outlets are subtly given preference. (This time, major news outlets — this one not included — were given off-the-record briefings about Social Graph.) It’s all drawn from a playbook that was developed a decade ago and has been used to transform a smallish computer company into the largest corporation in the world.

Not so fast. This playbook copied by every large company from Amazon to Facebook forgets three key elements for this communication to work: killer product, charismatic founder, real user values.

The magic with Steve Jobs was his effortless communication. A passionate user himself whose demos communicated his wonder around Apple products that truly changed the way we interact with technology.

Yes, Apple had their PR machinery but the difference was Jobs.

  • The difference was in backing up those missives by publicly sparring, evangelizing and winning over developers or journalists when they called him on it.
  • The difference was a holistic approach at communicating openly to users by treating them as adults.

Wasn’t that the utopian goal of social media? To help companies talk one-on-one with their users. Instead here we are, still mass producing press releases around giant product announcements, trying to reach the lowest common denominator at the lowest possible price. In some cases, at the ridiculously low price of $100.00!

Welcome to the future of social media communication.

[Disclosure: I own public stock in Facebook, I do not own stock in Apple. This blog holds my my personal thoughts on all things marketing and communications since 2006.]

Filed under: Best-of, Facebook, Public Relations, Social PR, , , ,

Zuck & Bezos: LEAVE JOBS ALONE!

Problem with the game now, there ain’t no innovation
I see my shit all in your shit, we call that imitation
And they say that’s flattering, but I ain’t flattered at all
Matter fact y’all need to practice that more
J. Cole, Cole World

I’ve been planning to write a post ever since I watched Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote (where he launched Timeline – more on that later). But, then just last week I saw this and it creeped me out. So, Jobs, steps down as CEO and every Zuck, Bezos and Harry decide to literally rip off the presentation style of Steve Jobs. That’s just not cool.

But, I digress. Let’s catch some make-believe as CEOs try to play Steve Jobs.

Zuckerberg as Jobs

WTF! 7 minutes of Andy Samberg introducing a tech conference. You know that even in SNL segments we can’t take Samberg in more than 3 minute bytes. And, what’s with all the awful “humor” (I’m Zuckerberg, he’s Andy Samberg, and we couldn’t have Eisenberg here, so I’ll mimic Eisenberg). C’mon, guys. This ain’t high-school no more.

What’s worse is that this is a bit that Jobs introduced in his keynotes. First, in 1999 when Noah Wyle (who played Jobs in “Pirates of the Silicon Valley“) played Jobs on stage before Jobs’ adoring fans. Noah’s intro was less than a minute long. That was it. Well timed humor about the movie and a joke or two about Jobs temperament – for another minute. And, he’s gone. That’s how it’s done.

And, Jobs himself has overplayed that shtick. More recently, PC guy (played by the ever-adorable “The Daily Show” “reporter” John Hodgman) did a “I’m Steve Jobs” shtick and it was funny, short, and poked fun at Microsoft. Who doesn’t like an anti-PC ad, eh?

Bezos as Jobs

So, in short. The Samberg shtick was pure Jobs imitation. And, more importantly, it wasn’t funny and was way too long.

Things got a lil’ creepy when Bezos, whose maniacal laughter I fear, decided to jump on the “I’ll present as Jobs” world. This is him introducing the new Kindle at Amazon World or whatever it’s called. What’s with the deliberate stilted pacing that’ll make any viewer go nuts. C’mon, be yourself. Smile a little during your presentation. Don’t take yourself so seriously. And quit ripping off Jobs’ style. Trust me, it ain’t flattery.

One of the comments on the above Youtube video nailed it.

I love how dramatically he reveals things a la Steve Jobs to none of the cheers typical of an Apple presentation.

mgaums 1 day ago

This one’s even better…

and not a single fuck was given that day.

That crowd seemed so unimpressed it was almost sad.

TADA KINDLE FIRE!!!!!

yeah and?

MegatronSmurf 1 day ago

Please leave Jobs alone

As Jon Stewart would say: Zuck, meet me at Camera 3 (y’know, for a 1:1) – you’re a smart guy and developers love you. I know that for a fact cos they hate to see you embarrassed. I remember what a hard time they gave Sarah Lacy when you did a terrible job answering simple questions at SXSW.

They idolize you, the same way Mac fanatics adore Steve Jobs. There are very few folks in our tech world, who commands that adulation. You’re finally creating products that restore a sense of childlike wonder (more on Timeline later).

That doesn’t mean you can replace a black turtleneck sweater with a North Face jacket, sneakers with Adidas flip flops, Noah Wyle with Andy Samberg and turn into tech world’s great Houdini.

So, stick with creating great products, figuring out what works best for you on stage in your own unique way (it takes a while) and don’t let your handlers play you around.

And, I’ll let Jobs himself describe why a f8 or Amazon presentation will never be a Jobs presentation.

The problem with Microsoft is that they just have no taste. Absolutely no taste.
In a sense that they don’t think of original ideas.
So, I guess, I’m saddened not by their success. I’ve no problem with their success.
They’ve earned their success.
I have a problem that they make really third-rate products (replace with presentation).

There’ll never be another Jobs. You know that. So, quit trying.

Filed under: Best-of, Jeff Bezos, Leadership Communication, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Steve Jobs, , , ,

Zuckerberg ain’t Jobs. 3 Ways to Try.

This post has been a long time coming. As someone who earns a living in the PR space and one who obsessively follows the unique craft of tech CEO presentations, I had to concur with CNN’s recent piece on Mark Zuckerberg’s recent product announcement and why it was a giant FAIL compared to a Jobs presentation!

C’mon. Comparing Zuckerberg to Jobs is like expecting Shia LaBeouf to act like Marlon Brando. While Transformers may sell $750 million in box-office receipts — that doesn’t a Brando make. This seems like a perfect time to finally share my thoughts on Steve Jobs’ virtuoso D8 interview – yet another instance of Jobs’ public speaking savvy.

Here are three of the Jobs’ unique speaking skills that you can glean from his presentations — seemingly simple but tough to emulate:

Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field can be emulated. 3 Simple tricks below.

If you’re telling a story, make it gripping:

There are a million boring ways to tell a story. Just ask Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer (don’t even get me started), but Jobs has a penchant for telling an elegant story that hooks you from the get go.

Juxtaposing Jobs’ d8 presentation with Zuckerberg’s presentation would be interesting, but if you ran a word cloud through Jobs’ presentation, here’s what you’d have seen. It’s all about people.

His very first anecdote about Apple’s resurgence (overtaking the market cap of Microsoft) recounts the bygone days when Apple was down in the dumps to highlight what a glorious triumph this is:

Well, Apple was about 90 days from going bankrupt… (Boom!) in the early days. It was much worse than I thought when I went back.

But there were people there (I’d expected all the good people would have left), and I found these miraculous people, great people and I asked them as tactfully as I could: Why are you still here? And, I’ll never forget. A lot of them had this phrase: because I bleed in six colors. (Note: I remember having a “Apple bleeds six colors” poster on my cubicle wall a few years back)

You know what this reminds me of:

Don Draper, Season 4, Episode 1 (Public Relations). After learning the craft of telling stories to reporters, Don is asked if he’s the definitive entity in his newly formed ad agency. Here’s the story he relates:

Last year, our agency was being swallowed whole. I realized I had two choices: I could die of boredom or holster up my guns. So, I walked into Lane Pryce’s office and I said: Fire us! (Boom!) — Cue Background Music.

Two days later we were up and running at the Pier Hotel, within a year we had taken over two floors of the Time Life Building.

Again, start with the nadir of the story to pique the viewer’s curiosity and build up to the finale. The cadence of story-telling between the two quotes is uncanny but good story-telling always remains the same.

Use evocative metaphors that ring true and wise:

Throughout history, all the great teachers have spoken in parables. More importantly, when asked questions use plain speak metaphors from every day life that each and every one of us can relate to. Before you frame your answer, ask yourself: would a 12 year old understand what I’m about to say? And, go…

Here are a couple of examples from Jobs (from just this interview):

On why they ditched Adobe: Apple is a company that doesn’t have unlimited resources (Reality Distortion Field in effect). They way we do that is by looking at technical vectors that have a future. Different pieces of technology kinda go in cycles: they have their springs and summers and autumns, then they go to the graveyard of technology.

We try to pick things that are in their springs. And, if you choose wisely you can save yourself an enormous amount of work rather than trying to do everything. (true and wise)

To a question on whether the tablet will eventually replace the laptop:

I’m trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks cos that’s what you needed on the farm. But, as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, and America started to move towards them. Cars got more popular and innovations like power steering, etc. happened.

And, now, maybe 1 in every 25 vehicles is a truck where it used to be like 100%.

PCs are gonna be like trucks.

Such a nuanced answer that yet again, aims to simplify and would communicate effectively to any 12 year old in the audience.

Here’s one more from the past on how computers are like a bicycle for your mind. Watch the video.

Clarity and consistency in thought and messaging

I recently read an essay on “Politics and the English language” by George Orwell, 1946, that I’d recommend to anyone with a fleeting desire to revisit their usage of the spoken and the written word. The essay culminates in 6 simple rules for clear writing and I think that can be extended to clear speaking as well.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.

I think Jobs best defines this in every single interview he’s done. I could go on. But, let me pick an example from D8’s interview for his thoughts on privacy – an area where every company from Google to Facebook have had their fair share of stumbles but I think the clarity and simplicity of Jobs’ definition of privacy is startling.

We’ve had a very different view of privacy. We take it very seriously.

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for… in plain english, and repeatedly.

I’m an optimist and I believe people are smart. Some people want to share more data. Some people more than others do. Ask em. Ask em every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them.

Let them know precisely what you’re gonna do with their data.

And, finally speaking of consistency of values that shines through every single interview Jobs has done, was this quote:

You know (long pause). When this whole Gizmodo incident happened, I got a lot of advice, that said: you’ve got to let it slide. You shouldn’t go after a journalist because they bought stolen property and they tried to extort you.You should let it slide.

And, I thought deeply about this. And, I ended up concluding.

That the worst thing that could possibly happen as we get big and gain a little more influence in this world, is if we change our core values and if we started letting it slide.

I can’t do that. I’d rather quit.

We have the same values now as we had then.

And, that consistency is true of Jobs impeccable communication skills. Watch the entire D8 Jobs interview here.

Filed under: Best-of, Facebook, Leadership Communication, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Steve Jobs, , ,