It was the winter of 20o4 and I was junior in college. My friend Alex was visiting and we were hanging out in my apartment in Brighton, MA. We were bored, drinking and surfing the Internet. He asked me if I heard of this new site where you can create a page, connect with people and most importantly, look up people you went to high school with and laugh at their picture and profile. Alex said that this new network was only available at certain colleges and universities (his, UMASS, being one of them), so he logged in and we made fun of people for an hour. It was a clever site, but I wasn’t completely sold on it. I resisted setting up my own account and thought the site was just the new Friendster, which at the time, was the trend de jour.
That site was Facebook, and in six short years, the website has become a global phenomenon, and made it’s creator Mark Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in history. The Social Network, the dark and intense film from director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin, is the story of how Facebook came to dominate our social lives. Or is it?
You see, there has been some debate as to the how accurate The Social Network actually is. Mark Zuckerberg says its a character assassination. Fincher and Sorkin are vague about their intent and opinions. What we do know is that there was a book written called The Accidental Billionaires in which Sorkin based his screenplay off, co-founder Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins both sued Zuckerberg in separate lawsuits (both settled out of court), and deposition testimony was made available to writers.
Whatever you choose to believe about the story, the movie is a fascinating character study of Zuckerberg, who without question is really an asshole. Jessie Eisenberg is great in the role. The whole cast is excellent. The score is eerie. Fincher is the man, effortlessly fusing his style into a non-typical film for him. My only critique could be that the movie is paced a little slow. This film is a straight character drama about nerds building a website. Transformers it is not; but for the subject matter, the film is very captivating.
Back to Zuckerberg. He has to be one of the most enigmatic people alive. He’s a computer savant, appears to simply not care about the amount of money he’s worth, and remains unable to maintain relationships with those close to him. The man behind the largest online social network in the world, is the the most socially awkward kid in the room. The irony is not lost on the filmmakers. With a poignant final scene, are we finally meant to feel sympathetic for Zuckerberg, or just see him as a pathetic loner?
One of my favorite scenes is when Zuckerberg sees his ex-girlfriend out at a bar with her friends and tries to apologize to her. She wants nothing to do with him and rightly so. But it’s the juxtaposition between her, out with her friends enjoying a real social interaction, and Zuckerberg, alone, awkward, and only comfortable “locked in” at a computer, that is the greatest example of Zuckerberg’s disconnect.
It is inferred that Zuckerberg created Facebook partly for revenge, partly to get girls and partly to change his poor reputation at Harvard after creating Facebook’s predecessor Facemash. Throughout the film Zuckerberg is obsessed with Facebook being cool. Being cool is why he resists Eduardo’s plan for monetization and why he falls in love with Sean Parker. The Social Network is essentially just a movie about a dork trying to be cool. Unfortunately, Zuckerberg still hasn’t realized that just because 500 million people “like” your site, doesn’t mean they like you.