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Facebook’s Zuckerberg is working on a way to connect you to people you ‘should’ know

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO who is totally not a future presidential candidate, shared some of what he learned from his early trips around the country. (ICYMI: The not-White House hopeful wanted to visit every state he hadn't spent a lot of time in this year.)

The actual crux of the post comes later when Zuckerberg writes why he's taking on this new challenge. Basically: He's not running for office, he wants to find ways to strengthen Facebook's "community."

He explains:

I also think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not. I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

In many ways, relationships are the most important things in our lives -- whether we're trying to form healthy habits, stay out of trouble, or find better opportunities. And yet, research shows the average American has fewer than three close friends we can turn to for support.

To make that difference Zuckerberg is talking about, he said that Facebook is helping people find people they already know but is also working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.

"There are a number of models for how this might work. The Peace Corps creates service opportunities where people exchange culture and build new relationships. Perhaps we could build a new digital peace corps. Another model is Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, where people who have struggled with these challenges and overcome them go on to become mentors for others, with the hope of training them to one day become mentors themselves. This is something I've only recently started studying and working with our teams at Facebook to build."

So, what has Zuckerberg learned from his travels so far? It turns out relationships are important.

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"My biggest takeaway so far is that our relationships shape us more than we think — how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits," he wrote. "There is a lot of discussion about inequality, but one under-looked dimension of inequality is in the makeup of our social networks."

That kernel of wisdom is what Zuckerberg picked up after stopping in places like Ohio, Indiana and Detroit. According to Zuckerberg the notion that people would make better decisions if they had better information is largely wrong and that it's the people they surround themselves with that impact their decisions more.

Zuckerberg gave three examples. In Ohio, it was heroin addicts that he sat down with.

"They told me the first step in fighting addiction is to detox, but the second is to get completely new friends," he wrote. "If you stay friends with the people you were using with — or even with people who are using on their own — you're almost guaranteed to relapse."

In Indiana, it was a juvenile detention center.

"Some of the kids had committed serious crimes like murder or robbery, but others had just misbehaved in class," he wrote, explaining. "The most striking fact is that those kids are more likely to become criminals after going through detention than they were before they went in. The correctional system is building a negative and self-reinforcing social network."

Ding. Ding. Ding. It all comes back to the network.

But Zuckerberg said he also saw the reverse effect happen — where the network of people someone surrounded themselves with had a positive impact.

"In Detroit, I met community leaders who turned an abandoned building into a safe place where kids can hang out after school. The founder told me: 'We want kids to be able to think again, and that comes from seeing men and women who care about what they do. We've got whole neighborhoods of kids just waiting for someone to give them a sense of purpose.'"

By Johana Bhuiyan, Recode.net.

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