Thoughts on The Social Network

Last Thursday, my Social Media for PR class viewed The Social Network. Before I share my thoughts on the movie, I would like to point out that prior to the class screening, I have never seen the movie, nor do I know much about Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook’s history. Though I do know general information.

What stood out to me right off the bat was how Zuckerberg was portrayed as a completely arrogant and socially inept prodigy programmer. Despite hearing from others that the real Zuckerberg can be a little condescending and—to sugar coat it—a jerk, it’s hard to believe the CEO of Facebook can be that cruel and condescending to virtually everyone he comes into contact with. Clearly for Hollywood purposes, his social awkwardness and mannerisms are an exaggeration. Though what I can believe is that he is a gifted programmer and innovator with a true understanding of communication and connections. No one can create a “social” networking site without understanding how and why people communicate and for what possible end goal. This leads me to my next thought.

Though Zuckerberg was portrayed as overly arrogant (although I don’t doubt some of his arrogance), what the movie stressed through this arrogance was his steadfast belief of Facebook’s mission as stated in Wired magazine in 2010: making the world open. In the movie, everyone involved with Facebook was concerned about the profits except for Zuckerberg. The Winklevoss twins and Narendra were angry not just with Zuckerberg stealing their Harvard Connection idea, but the potential for the idea to make millions. In addition, Eduardo Saverin as CFO immediately wanted to include advertisements to make money after Facebook was launched. Then there were others in the movie that saw no potential in a social network at all, which is remarkable to think about considering the way Facebook has changed advertising, marketing, and public relations. However, that is a whole other matter.

In the lawsuit that ensues in the movie with all three parties (Zuckerberg, the Winklevoss and Narendra, and Saverin), Zuckerberg states in front of his accusers and lawyers that he doesn’t care about the money, but for Facebook to connect people in ways still unimaginable. He insults everyone in the room, stating they are too foolish to see the bigger picture. This emphasis on the mission rings true for the real Zuckerberg. Even with Facebook going public in the past year and decreasing in stock value, Zuckerberg firmly states Facebook does not exist to please investors, but to achieve its mission. From what I remember, the speech was very blunt. Regardless of how arrogant he may be in real life, I like that he’s truthful (to an extent) and dedicated to the idea. That, I believe, is what the movie did well. At the same time, I think that was also the take-home message: How a simple site like Facebook catapulted us into the modern era of Web 2.0.

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One response

  1. I’m not sure if I agree with your praise regarding Zuckerberg’s “true understanding of communication and connections.” At least per the film, he was depicted as so self-involved that his “understanding” arose out of his own needs — I didn’t see any empathy towards the needs of other people, or communication on a broader level. Although, as I write that there were a few “trigger” moments inspired by others that motivated him to make changes to the program. It is interesting to think about how undergraduate social needs helped create the structure of FB that now structures everyone’s online social connections, whether one is twenty-something or fifty-something.

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