Why did Mark Zuckerberg sit on 'booster seat' during US congressional hearing?

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, testifies at a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 10, 2018.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, testifies at a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 10, 2018.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has fielded 10 hours of questions over two days from nearly 100 US lawmakers.

Yet one of the most talked-about issues had little to do with what he said during the Congressional hearings and everything to do with how he was sitting.

During the first day of hearing on Tuesday (April 10), which lasted five hours, Zuckerberg comfortably added four inches to his 5'7" (1.7 m) frame by sitting on a thick 4-inch black cushion.

Photos of the camera-shy billionaire perched atop the cushion quickly went viral online. Commentators dubbed the cushion a 'booster seat". He was ridiculed online, with some labelling it "ridiculous" and describing the tech billionaire as a "man-child".

Some speculated that the 33-year-old social media chief may have requested the seat to appear taller, more authoritative and imposing during the grilling.

Confidence coach Jo Emerson said it might have all been part of a wider tactic to elevate his authority in what was indisputably a crucial and high-pressured moment.

Psychologically, we can be guilty of perceiving taller people as more confident and in control than those who are shorter," she told The Independent.

 
 
 

"Of course, believing taller people are more confident is ridiculous but beliefs developed in childhood can be very hard to shift.

"So, it's only natural that Mr Zuckerberg wanted to feel physically larger as this would help his psyche to feel 'bigger'," she explained.

"He would also, psychologically, feel less intimidated by the setting if he felt physically bigger."

Leading life coach Michael Serwa added that despite Zuckerberg's billionaire status, even highly successful people aren't immune to insecurities, reported The Independent.

"In a business environment, people operating at Mark's level will be used to dealing with tough situations and I doubt he sits on a cushion when he's going about his day-to-day life," he told The Independent.

"But when your empire is under attack on such a large scale, your basic instinct will kick in and it's not uncommon for business leaders to seek more presence when under fire."

Doctors however point out that there is a valid health reason why Zuckerberg sat on a cushion.

Dr Joel Press, physiatrist-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City told Fortune:"It's not crazy. As a matter of fact, a lot of people in this country…use a little back support."

"There's probably some reason for it, whether it's related to back- or hip-related things."

Press says sitting for extended periods can put strain on the discs in the back, more so even than walking, standing, or moving around. As such, many people use cushions that offer elevation or extra support to specific areas of the back. Cushions may also be used for injuries to the hamstrings, hips, thighs or buttocks, Press told Fortune.

Press adds it may be uncomfortable for shorter people to sit in some chairs, since they're typically made with a person between 5'8"" and 5'10" in mind.

All in all, Press says that, while an extra cushion likely isn't necessary for your day-to-day sitting needs, "We do recommend the average person, during their work day, have some support while they're sitting. You want people with good posture when they're sitting as much as possible."

A spokesperson for Facebook told the New York Post that it was "the committee's standard practice" for comfort, and had not been brought along by either Facebook or Zuckerberg himself to enhance his height.

But it was too late to stop the mocking on social media.