Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" on Wednesday, has been portrayed in print and on screen as a boy king yearning for acceptance. But Faryl Ury, who was recently named Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's spokeswoman for the 112th Congress, remembers Facebook's inventor a little differently.
"I don't know about all the intricate drama, but I know, from my interactions with Mark, he was a really nice and smart guy," Ury said. She and Zuckerberg were both freshmen living in Harvard's Straus Hall the year before Zuckerberg and a coterie of girl-addled coding wizards (if Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is to be believed) devised a prototype for the world's preeminent social-networking tool.
"I remember sophomore year, I was one of the first people to join.... It [was] like 'stalk-book' in addition to the 'facebook,' " said Ury, noting that voyeurism is intrinsic to Facebook's appeal. "Not everyone wanted to join right away, so other friends would use my account to check out other people's profiles."
As graduation neared, Ury "was talking to Facebook" about joining its staff, but she opted instead to enroll in Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. "I got accepted to this prestigious grad school that I'd always been interested in. And so, of course, I said, 'Oh, I'd be silly not to go.' And then all my classes were focused on how Facebook was changing the face of journalism. So, that was a little sore spot, as my friends at journalism school knew."
Even if she missed her chance to participate in developing the revolutionary site, Ury, 26, has plied the nexus of journalism and social networking. As a TV reporter with the Associated Press, Ury helped lead the development of the global media company's social-networking strategy. (In the interest of full disclosure, Ury describes herself as a "mentee" of AP veteran and National Journal Editor-in-Chief Ron Fournier.) Before an interview with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Ury solicited questions from AP's audience on Facebook and Twitter. "Then we posted [her answers] and said, 'Hey, so-and-so, thanks for asking your question to the Labor secretary.' We took it to her, she answered it, and here's what she had to say.... It came full circle."
Ury says she is a good fit to represent the junior senator from New Hampshire because, like Shaheen's constituents, she is inclined to seek "pragmatic solutions." One of her goals in the near term is to break into an exclusive social register compiled by The Hill newspaper. "I've been joking with my friends [that] I've always wanted to be in The Hill's [list of the] 50 hottest. Now that I'm working on the Hill, I'm one step closer. I just have to work on being hot."