The Social Network

The Social Network (2010)

Facebook has changed human interaction. It seems that everyone uses it. Even grandparents who rarely use the internet have become Facebook users because “that is how the grandchildren communicate these days” (that is what at least two people have told me). Over five-hundred million people connect through this social network (see here). It has become so influential that Time Magazine named Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg the Person of the Year for 2010. In part, I am going to guess that the movie The Social Network contributed to that nomination.

David Fincher directed a movie that tells the story of the birth and evolution of Facebook. It is based on the limited testimony of a handful of individuals, so do not watch it as “history”, per se. Rather, one should watch this film as Zuckerberg’s story as told by some who where close to the situation.

Zuckerberg is played by Jessie Eisenberg who does an amazing job at convincing the viewer that Zuckerberg is something of a tortured genius. Zuckerberg cannot find a home amongst the Harvard elite, so he becomes greater than those who refused to acknowledge him. This is done by using his genius in computers to develop a social network that brings him notoriety.

The film uses the various “intellectual property” lawsuits brought against Zuckerberg as a skeleton. We are introduced to Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Moskovitz who think Facebook was their creation. At another angle we meet Eduardo Saverin who was the early CFO that got squeezed out by Zuckerberg. Most of the suspense is built around Zuckerberg’s battles with these people.

One of the most interesting characters is the enigmatic Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, and the man who changed the music industry forever. He is played by Justin Timberlake (who does a great job as well). The film seems to depict Parker as a mover and shaker who helped Zuckerberg make Facebook what it is today at the expense of Zuckerberg’s friends and loyalties (e.g. Saverin). Parker comes and goes, doing his own thing, changing the company forever, yet sneaking out the back door toward the end. Until I had seen this film I had never heard of the connection between Zuckerberg and Parker, but it is a fascinating and mysterious one indeed.

Overall this is a very, very good film. It is awkward watching a movie about a “historical event” that we are living right now. We are part of Zuckerberg’s empire. Even those who do not want to be connected to Facebook feel the impact of being part of a world where this is how many, many people connect! Zuckerberg’s company has launched an avalanche in the history of human interaction by which you can either be buried or you can ride safely into the next stage of our history.

Zuckerberg seems to go from underdog to villain as the film progresses. It leaves you wondering what kind of person he is now, if he has any real friends, if his desire to make us all open to one another is leading toward depth of relationships or something much, much more deceiving.  It makes you wonder if we are living in Zuckerberg’s world or if time will toss him aside as well. Who is to know?