Monday, February 21, 2011

The Social Network (on DVD)

I finally caught up with the buzz on The Social Network, nominated for a bunch of Oscars and detailing what went down to create our much-beloved Facebook. It's incredible and awful and amazing all at once, and you can't help but wonder where to separate fact from fiction, especially when the last scenes of the movie tell you that the people involved signed nondisclosure agreements.

Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, wrote the screenplay for The Social Network, and this is evident in the opening lines of the movie. There's no musical introduction, no musical background even, as you are thrust into the middle of a conversation between Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend. It's at least five minutes, maybe more (it feels so long for a movie, but it works), of pure repartee. And the movie starts here with Mark's break-up because that's where Facebook started, according to the movie (the reality is not as certain; see the end of this post). A guy got mad, got drunk, blogged meanly about his break-up, and hacked a bunch of dorm facebooks (you know, the old definition of the word, a school directory of everyone), and created Facemash, a program for people to vote between two girls at a time, hot or not. His online work that night was so big and had so many hits it crashed the Harvard University network. From there it was a matter of weeks, barely months, until the first version of Facebook was up and running, just for Harvard students.

The rest of the movie revolves around how Facebook continued to expand through help from the morally and ethically corrupt Sean Parker (Napster creator) and how Zuckerberg was sued by three young men, who believed he'd stolen their idea after they offered to help him, as well as by his own former CFO, who fronted him the money but was later cut out of the shares.

It's a messy business, and if it's true, it almost makes you feel bad about using Facebook. Actually, what potentially makes me feel worse about using it is the moral degradation of everyone involved in the whole affair. Mark Zuckerberg gets jealous of his CFO for getting into one of Harvard's most prestigious clubs, but the club itself is full of women taking off their clothes and getting drunk, not somewhere I'd ever want to find myself. Sean Parker, while having the smarts to help Zuckerberg to the top, doesn't care whom he steps on to get there, and drugs, alcohol, and half-dressed women seem to follow him wherever he goes. The amount of empty, meaningless partying that goes on in this movie and undoubtedly in the schools it portrays just makes you kind of sick. How can that appeal to people?

As real as it probably is, it was the one huge downer of the movie. It made me feel gross to watch it and left me with a bit of a sick feeling at the end. To think that Facebook arose out of all of that craziness gives me pause when I type my log-in now.

I wonder, if Zuckerberg hadn't been pushed and angered as he was in the movie, would he have had the drive to accomplish all he did? Or, if he had been more level-headed, less of a drunk, could he have gone further? Honestly, I think some of the greatest stuff comes out of pain because pain provides the drive. Do I hope Zuckerberg is a better person than that in real life? Yeah! For his sake. Would a better person have cost us Facebook? Maybe.

The Social Network portrays Zuckerberg as emotionally unconnected. I've recently discovered that some studies are showing autistic kids to sometimes have a borderline autistic parent, evidenced by extreme intelligence and somewhat of a social reticence. This certainly isn't always the case, and may be an exception (I didn't read the study), but Zuckerberg, as portrayed in this movie, reminds me a little of a borderline autistic person, having a brilliant mind but an inability to form real friendships. His girlfriend and his only real friend, the CFO of Facebook, were people he ended up hurting the most. It's a sad, sad story.

But like I said, nondisclosure agreements...

The story makes a fascinating movie, but how much is embellished to make the story? I guess, if even half of it is true, it's still incredible, awful, and amazing. One thing that seems to be false is the girlfriend break-up. Several things I've read indicate she was fabricated for the purpose of storytelling, and Wikipedia even has a quote from Sorkin that he was more interested in the storytelling than in the exact truth of the story he told. Other sources indicate Zuckerberg has had his current girlfriend for the past seven years.

The sheer genius and artistry of the movie make it worth the run for the Oscars. Four and a half stars for genius. Two stars for morality. View it at your own discretion.

Now...time to post to Facebook.

ADDITION: This was not in the original post of this blog, but I wanted to add that Mark Zuckerberg is two years younger than me. He was born in 1984. He was in college when Facebook was created in 2004. Doesn't it feel like we've had Facebook forever? But I didn't have it when I went to college. This all happened fast, and it happened to a very young guy.


  1. If it helps you feel any better, Facebook is being used by many Christians for their churches and organizations to do great work for the Lord. Maybe Facebook was started by bad people in bad circumstances, but God can still "redeem" it, and use it for His glory.

  2. Oh, I don't really feel bad about using Facebook. That was mostly sarcasm. And actually, you can't take too many of the facts from this movie as gospel. Sorkin basically admitted he wasn't sticking to pure facts. For all I know, Zuckerburg is a decent guy. It just made a better movie, apparently, to make him look like a scumbag.


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