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Mark Zuckerberg has started calling employees Metamates. No one is taking it seriously.

February 16, 2022, 9:52 PM UTC

In the latest step in its rebranding process, the company formerly known as Facebook is changing the way it refers to its employees. On Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO announced that alongside some rewording of Facebook’s core values, employees will now be called “Metamates.”

At the end of the all-staff meeting, Zuckerberg shared a slide showing the last updated value that included the phrase, “Meta, metamates, me.” Alex Heath, a reporter at Verge, who’s Twitter thread included highlights from the presentation, tweeted, “I am told Zuck said this without laughing and explained it had to do with a story about ships and shipmates.”

According to future Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth, “Meta, metamates, me“ is derived from “ship, shipmates, self.” Bosworth said the term was originated by cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, and The New York Times reported that Hofstadter initially suggested the simpler term “teammates” and added Metamates as another option in postscript.

Meta is not the first company to invent words to describe its workforce. Zappos workers are called Zaponians, Accenture’s employees are Accenturions, and Pinterest employees are Pinployees. CEOs have theorized that these names give employees a sense of belonging and improve company culture by moving away from the coldness associated with simply calling employees “workers.” 

But like giving an acquaintance a nickname, made-up corporate jargon doesn’t always seem natural. The announcement of the term Metamates was met with skepticism across the internet.

There’s been a tidal wave of cultural cynicism lately pushing back against the idea that a job needs to provide people with more than just a paycheck — that workers must want a purpose. This idea is seen as more and more antiquated.

”If the tight labor market is giving low-wage workers a taste of upward mobility, a lot of office workers (or “office,” these days) seem to be thinking about our jobs more like the way many working-class people have forever. As just a job, a paycheck to take care of the bills!” Noreen Malone wrote in The New York Times.

Corporate nicknames like Metamates don’t have the same impact when employees view themselves as just workers. And there’s more skepticism when that renaming comes without any meaningful change in corporate values or priorities. Amazon workers are known as Amazonians, but recent reports of dire working conditions at all levels of the company destabilize the idea that employees are treated as warriors and giants.

Meta employees certainly expressed their own concerns with their new nickname, including poking fun at the nautical theme, tweeted The New York Times tech reporter, Sheera Frenkel.

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