Working on a car assembly line in Michigan: Check.
Hanging out with firemen in Indiana: Check.
Speaking with recovering opioid addicts in Ohio: Check.
Driving a tractor, feeding a calf, having lunch with a family of farmers in Wisconsin: Check, check, check. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page is full of “real-life” travel photos as of late, and the young billionaire’s vacation make for a great collection of political campaign photo ops. These stops are part of Zuckerberg’s announced 2017 challenge: He is seeking to visit all of the US states he hasn’t been to yet (he said it’s about 30 in total), hoping “to get out and talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.”
Rumors that Facebook’s founder is contemplating a run for office have been circulating for a while now, but they have been denied. While it’s hard to believe that this is merely a (very, very wealthy and very, very powerful) private citizen’s attempt at understanding his own country, it’s also a way to engage with new parts of Facebook’s user base and try to understand them as people rather than just as data, in line with his new focus on trying to do something about political partisanship, hate speech, fake news.
Whether this is just an exploration of America IRL, or if it will turn out to be the start of a political career, we are tracking Zuckerberg’s progress. As he posts new stops on his tour of the US, we will look into the kind of communities he chooses, their demographic compositions (particularly in terms of income and racial disparity), and the issues he chooses to highlight. By the end of the tour, we’ll have a picture of what kind of America the Facebook founder has seen, and how it compares with the average American experience.