Sheryl Sandberg: Here’s Why Facebook isn’t as Toxic as We Think

March 8 - Sarah Ashlock


Even if you’ve gone through something hella hard, it can be tough to figure out how to be a good friend to someone in need. The one thing I know for sure? Don’t expect your pal to pinpoint and verbalize what she needs. She’s in the thick of it and has no idea what will be comforting. Bring her a latte on your way to work; stop by and offer to take her dog for a walk. She may never thank you and it may seem like she doesn’t notice at all. But I’ll let you in on a secret: She does notice. She’ll remember those who are there for her and those who weren’t. Be the former.


When one of my peers died tragically in high school, we all took to her Xanga—one of the first pseudo social media sites—and wrote “to” her in a public memorial of sorts. Taking to social media during tragic times can reduce isolation. For example, 68 percent of Americans use Facebook, making it an accessible platform for catharsis and connection.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Today, on International Women’s Day, we’re talking about a woman I’m sure you’ve heard of: Sheryl Sandberg. She’s the COO of Facebook, is worth more than a billion bucks and secured her fame with her 2013 book Lean In. But, as with most women, there’s plenty you don’t know about Sheryl, and you might just find her more relatable than you think.

Sheryl’s made some seriously smart choices in her life. After earning degrees from Harvard, she headed to the Department of the Treasury in the 90s before moving to Silicon Valley during the Millennium. She put her nose to the grindstone, steering what was then a small ship at Google. In 2008, Sheryl moved on to what’s now one of the biggest companies in the world: Facebook.

Only a couple years following the release of Sheryl’s bestseller—in which she urges women to accept or seek out opportunities without pause—her husband died unexpectedly. She took to Facebook a month later at the end of sheloshim to share vivid moments and memories, and how she is surviving as a widow and a mother.

TIME magazine explained that for Sheryl, who is ever the problem solver, did not have an answer or an optimistic solution. A couple years later, she wrote her second book, this time with psychologist Adam Grant. Called Option B, the book dives into how moments of utter tragedy can open one up to develop resilience, strength and compassion.

Once you’re at the table, leaning in, where do you go from there? It might even be easy to lean in, when, say, life’s handing you lots of golden tickets. But what do you do when it’s all lemons for a while? Sheryl would cry during meetings, leaving employees feeling awkward and helpless. This high-powered woman showed that advancing women’s place at work isn’t just about assuming some steely demeanor. It’s also about accepting your own vulnerabilities and those you work beside.

When Sheryl now looks back at her whirlwind success with Lean In, she recognizes its faults. There’s a section in the book about partners, without much to say about single career women or single moms. But she’s growing and evolving, which is all we can do, right?


We never know what’s going to happen. That is seriously all we actually know. Take Sheryl Sandberg’s words today and do something brave:

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

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