Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been posting a whole lot lately, as he tours around the country attempting to visit all 50 states before the end of 2017. On Sunday, Zuckerberg wrote a lengthy message about what he’d learned — and took the opportunity to once again reiterate that he’s definitely not running for public office of any kind.
Zuckerberg’s 1,298-word post related a number of anecdotes about his cross-country tour, culminating in his conclusions that personal relationships and the “social networks” that we interact with both on and offline, affect our lives “more than we think.” Zuckerberg says that he wants to understand how to improve people’s social networks with strong positive role models to help the humanitarian work his charity arm, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, does, and definitely not because a cross-country tour across the melting pot of America looks great for someone who may eventually need the support of the American electorate.
“Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not,” Zuckerberg wrote. “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.”
This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg has had to deny that he’s running for president. At the end of 2016, media outlets widely speculated that Zuckerberg might make a bid for public office, after a change in Facebook’s stock options policy made it technically possible for him to retain control of the company and move into politics. Zuckerberg denied the rumors in January, but over the past few months, he hasn’t done much to reaffirm his promise to stay off the ballot. His 50 states tour has all the hallmarks of a political campaign trip, putting Zuckerberg in front of all the relevant photo-friendly groups (doctors, cops, firefighters, community activists, professional athletes, autoworkers, and average Joes) that politicians love. He’s also been posting a few more windows into his personal life, like the cute video of the moment he got into college and several pictures of his wife Priscilla and their child and dog.
But his official comments, however, have stayed so firmly middle of the road it’s basically impossible to tell what his actual viewpoints on any issues are. His latest post touches on core issues in America like prison reform, narcotics abuse, and economic inequality, but like the 6,000-word manifesto he posted in February, it doesn’t actually say anything about the root causes of these problems, just that they can be addressed by “building community” or “exchanging culture.” In a way, Zuckerberg seems to be treating his big American road trip like a data gathering opportunity — wandering around the country like a human SurveyMonkey poll and using the experiences of average Americans to inform the business decisions he’ll need to make in the future. Right now, Zuckerberg is unequivocally sure that running for office isn’t in the picture. But Facebook didn’t become the most influential communications company in the world by being inflexible, and there’s nothing that says Zuckerberg can’t change his mind.