The Silence of the Never Facebookers

Updated at 1:14 p.m. ET on June 10, 2020.
To commemorate the company’s initial public offering in 2011, LinkedIn gave some of its employees a lucite cube emblazoned with the stock ticker, LNKD, on one side and “Next Play” on the reverse. That phrase encapsulates the business philosophy of Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO at the time.
Weiner has said he borrowed “next play” from the Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who incants the phrase to push his players past the distraction of their last success. Once Weiner adapted it as a business koan, he used next play obsessively: to announce Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, to describe his resignation from the CEO role, to name his new venture-capital firm. During LinkedIn job interviews, candidates were commonly asked to name the job they wanted to have after the one they were applying for—scouting out their next, next play, even before the next one became current.
Nextplayism is Silicon Valley’s whole culture: What are you gonna do next? “I hear people ask it of each other two or three times a week,” Ian McCarthy, a vice president of product at Yahoo, told me. Progress is based not on the virtues of results, but on reaching a milestone. What comes before is relevant only insofar as it brings about what will have followed.
[ Read: Silicon Valley abandons the culture that made it the envy of the world ]
This ethos helps explain some of the context around recent worker unrest at Facebook, which erupted last week after the company refused to moderate President Donald Trump’s posts implying that protesters could be shot. Mark Zuckerberg’s inaction ignited a revolt by Facebook staff: Some employees staged a virtual walkout , others criticized the CEO in a staff meeting, and at least one engineer resigned in protest .
The social-media giant was once one of the most desirable gigs in the industry, but that might be changing. A quiet set of workers that McCarthy, who mentors many younger tech professionals, called “Never Facebookers” has emerged, people who tell him that they wouldn’t work for the company under any circumstances. For those already working at the company, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, another option is to abandon ship. But that move falls prey to the logical trap of the next play: That what follows is better than what came before, by virtue of its succession. (Weiner objects to my interpretation, saying that for him, a next play always requires “reflection, not just moving on.”)
The whole industry is implicated in this problem, including Google , Reddit , Uber , and others. Tech workers most able to protest their employers with resignation are those who have the least to lose—the ones who will find their next play easily, reinvesting conscientious objection in yet another tech company. The industry says it wants to improve the world, but its workers are...