Talking with A Zuckerberg who likes to unplug

Name: Randi Zuckerberg
Age: 31
City: Palo Alto
Sibling: Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook
Occupations: Author, founder of Zuckerberg Media, former spokeswoman/director of marketing for Facebook

Randi Zuckerberg photo/delbarr moradi

J.: Your new children’s book — “Dot.” — is about a little girl who discovers the perils of becoming a little too attached to technology and social media. What inspired you to write a book suggesting kids get offline?

Randi Zuckerberg: I spent the last 10 years in Silicon Valley, and the majority of it was at Facebook, on the frontlines of social media, and I was thinking every day about the opportunities that tech and social media were creating. It wasn’t until I had my son [in 2011] that I kind of picked my head up and realized social media can be a hugely positive thing in our lives, but there are also a whole lot of challenges.

J.: What kinds of challenges are you talking about?

RZ: I think most people at this point have felt what it’s like to be overconnected. When we unplug, when we disconnect for a bit, we’re giving our brains time to rest and to be creative … of course, at the same time, technology lets me stay in touch with my husband and son while I’m gone on a six-week book tour.

J.: Is the book aimed at kids or parents? What do you hope will come out of it?

RZ: This book is for everyone. The No. 1 reaction I get is “Thank goodness someone wrote a book like this, I feel like I need to give it to everyone I know.” You know, “Can I give this to my husband?” (Laughs)

I think we’re all inundated with mixed messages about the positives and negatives of social media, and it has become really difficult to untangle the situation. One major takeaway for me is that children truly model their behavior after their parents and the adults around them, so part of this is about creating rules for yourself.

J.: You, your brother, Mark, and your two sisters were raised Jewish in Westchester County, N.Y., where there are pretty strong Jewish communities. Is that still a big part of your identity? How have you found the Jewish community here?

RZ: My Jewish identity is very important to me, especially after having had my son. I want Judaism and Israel to play a big part in his life. We belong to the JCC here [in Palo Alto] … and you know, it’s funny. Growing up in New York, I always heard “the farther west you go, the less Jewish you are,” so I was really excited to find a very strong, very pioneering Jewish community out here. I actually think the [Oshman Family] JCC is kind of an incubator of Israeli and Jewish culture.

J.: Your family traveled to Israel when you were a child. Are you connected with the Israeli tech scene?

RZ: I actually just got back from Israel about a month ago, where I was leading a group of 20 Jewish tech leaders from Silicon Valley through Israel’s high-tech sector. It was great to see people exploring their own relationship to Israel. And I’m definitely involved with the Israeli Silicon Valley community.

J.: What stands out to you from that trip?

RZ: Well, I’ve written about the idea of the digital Sabbath — taking the end of the week to unplug and unwind. And having the themes of [“Dot.” and another new book, “Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives”] in mind, it was really interesting to me to be in Israel, where, no matter how religious or non-religious you are, Shabbat is just part of the culture. And how refreshing and how healthy it is to have a whole culture where one day is for rest and unwinding!

J.: Do you and your family have any big plans for Thanksgivukkah?

RZ: Of course, we can’t wait! I mean, it only happens every 70,000 years. We have a menu planned with sweet potato latkes, and brisket with cranberry sauce. And my son is going to get showered with Hanukkah presents. I actually need to re-hide them when I get home. He already found the stash.

“Talking with …” focuses on local Jews who are doing things we find interesting. Send suggestions to emma@jweekly.com.

 

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is a former J. staff writer.