Face it — the biggest tourist draw in San Mateo County is no longer Filoli or vast expanses of nature or even that beer garden where the prototype iPhone was nabbed a few years back. Instead, the curious are flocking to take pictures outside Facebook.
Saw this new phenomenon myself this week. Perhaps it’s been going on ever since Zuck and company set up shop in Menlo Park but, with few occasions to cross the Dumbarton Bridge, I rarely pass by the company’s campus. But in any case, the pilgrimages were news to me until I saw it with my own two eyes.
Stuck in traffic just outside the entrance, I spotted a young girl in her best Taylor Swift-esque summer dress sitting atop the sign proclaiming “1 Hacker Way.” Her ankles were crossed, her smile sweet. A few feet away a woman — her mother, one assumes — snapped away with a camera.
Rounding the bend, a gaggle of hoodie-wearing teenage girls giving off a tourist vibe crouched in front of the bigger Facebook sign with its easily recognizable thumbs-up image. They giggled and made sure not to block the graphic appendage as they squished close together. Snapping their photo were two grown men in orange safety vests. Parked on the side of the road was a white SUV and a tow truck, all of which makes one wonder if the teenage fangirls had broken down heading to IKEA or the Bayshore and opted for a souvenir picture before departing. Or, perhaps the roadside assistance crew was also out for a snapshot the same time as the girls. Fandom knows no age. One will never know.
But what I do know is that it is awfully weird to think the Facebook headquarters buildings and signs are the newest county hot spot. It’s not as though the offices are the easiest place to reach or located really on the way to anything.
Do visitors think they might run into Mark Zuckerberg or doppleganger Jesse Eisenberger? Maybe they hope to slip inside the massive complex. Or perhaps they just want a first-hand glance at where all the online magic happens, making it possible for them to post real-time updates on soda runs and romantic status?
Maybe taking photos at any landmarks is strange to some but we’re not talking about a vision of beauty and wonder here. No offense to the Facebook architects but they are just buildings. It’s not as if they are the garage where Hewlett and Packard created their first computer. Then again, Haight and Ashbury are just street signs.
Facebook is not the first building to draw visitors and it won’t be the last. Crime buffs take walking tours of infamous scenes. Music fans want to walk where Janis Joplin swigged her Southern Comfort or the Grateful Dead held court. Even this journalist made a point to visit Tribune Tower in Chicago although that was more for the historical artifacts embedded in the wall than its former newspaper inhabitant.
On the tech front, Apple undoubtedly draws Steve Jobs wannabes to Cupertino and it wouldn’t be surprising to find people lingering outside Twitter or Google (although those might be folks hoping to snag one of those snazzy and perk-filled internships).
So maybe Facebook’s photo-happy users making a pit stop isn’t so odd. It is the social network, after all. And, not being on Facebook, perhaps it is not my place to judge. However, to steal a phrase forever linked to the company, I don’t have to like it.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.