scorecardMark Zuckerberg's awkwardness may be a power move — here's why
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Mark Zuckerberg's awkwardness may be a power move — here's why

Jyoti Mann   

Mark Zuckerberg's awkwardness may be a power move — here's why
Tech2 min read
  • Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has often been mocked for displaying awkward behavior.
  • Such behavior could be considered a power move and a marker of intelligence for tech CEOs.

Mark Zuckerberg has been repeatedly labeled as awkward.

The Meta CEO got the meme treatment after a clip of him appearing uncomfortable at a UFC martial arts event went viral last month.

Zuck looked out of place when supporting Australian fighter Alex Volkanovski at UFC 298. He seemed to be ignored as he was trying to help pass items around while bopping his head to music in what appeared to be an attempt to look cool.

Yes, he got ripped apart by the internet, but one commentator says such nervousness could be considered a "power move" for the likes of Zuckerberg and other tech CEOs.

That's because they don't subscribe to social norms, and a display of awkwardness could be seen as a marker of intelligence for tech CEOs, says Alexandra Plakias, an academic and author of the book "Awkwardness: A Theory."

"Being awkward is a social cost that you can only bear if you have a lot of social capital to burn," Plakias told Business Insider. For Zuck and men alike, awkwardness is "seen as not only excusable, but laudable."

Even if such figures are seen as awkward, they're still accepted, embraced — and sometimes even celebrated. "If you're powerful enough, and if you're seen as intelligent enough, then you don't also have to be particularly charismatic and you don't have to be particularly socially considerate," Plakias said.

It's not the worst label to carry though, as awkward people are more likely to show "striking talent" or become successful through intense focus on a topic, psychologist Ty Tashiro previously told BI.

Tashiro, author of "Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome," said they end up mastering a subject area through "nerding out" about a topic.

But Plakias doesn't think awkwardness is an individual character trait, but rather something that comes out of social interactions.

"It's not something that a person is, but it's something that makes a situation become awkward," said the associate professor of philosophy at Hamilton College in New York state. "It happens when we don't have the right kind of social guidance to get through situations."

Plakias said some people may have more trouble with social cues than others.

The way in which we let people off the hook for failing to read social cues or not responding to others intersects with power and wealth in ways that advantage certain types of people, Plakias added.

Social expectations around gender also play a role here as female CEOs might not be afforded those same positive connotations from the label.

"Women are typically held more responsible for ensuring other people's comfort and for making sure that things run smoothly and for facilitating social interactions in a way that I think men in positions of power typically are not," Plakias told BI.

"Awkwardness: A Theory" is published by Oxford University Press