Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says he will not be running for the White House, despite mounting speculation that the 33-year-old billionaire has plans to launch a bid to replace Donald Trump in 2020.
Prompting the speculation is a US-wide trip Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla are currently embarking on, spending time in each state he has not visited before to speak with its people and better understand each section of Facebook's two billion members.
But instead of laying the foundations for a presidential nomination, Zuckerberg says he is hoping to better understand "people's hopes and challenges, and how they're thinking about their work and communities", according to a Facebook status update on 22 May.
The biggest takeaway from his trip, Zuckerberg said, "is that our relationships shape us more than we think – how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits".
The Facebook owner, who is worth more than $60bn (£46bn), wrote at length about how the people we surround ourselves with have a big impact on how our lives pan out – but how leaving our current friendships groups and forming entirely new ones can be a powerful tool when trying to fix problems with our lives. Zuckerberg gave examples of how drug addicts and repeat criminals only make real progress when they form entirely new friendship groups – something he alludes to Facebook attempting to do in the future.
Running for public office
"I think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not. I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost two billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative."
Zuckerberg claims that, on average, Americans have fewer than three close friends they can turn to for support, prompting him to investigate ways for Facebook to match users up with people who are entirely new and unrelated to their current friendship circles.
"Facebook has been focused on helping you connect with people you already know, We've built AI [artificial intelligence] systems to recommend 'people You may Know'. But it might be just as important to also connect you with people you should know – mentors and people outside your circles who care about you and car provide a new source of support and inspiration."
In an earlier post announcing his plans for travelling the US, Zuckerberg sounded to many like he was embarking on a political campaign trail. He said: "Going into this challenge, it seems we are at a turning point in history. For decades, technology and globalisation have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people is has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone."