I saw the highly anticipated movie The Social Network the other day.
In brief, it’s about Mark Zuckerberg’s (played by Jesse Eisenberg) creation of Facebook and his rise to billionairedom. I don’t know how biographical the story is, but it’s certainly a story to make you think about success and relationships.
He developed Facebook one night with friends in his dormitory room while drunk.
There was a lot of technical code and legal speak in the movie. Initially Zuckerberg collaborated with his Harvard university friends, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes. But as he envisaged and created Facebook, he saw opportunities in other, more established places, and consequently didn’t do the right thing by his friends by slashing their shares in Facebook. The movie shows him being sued by multiple parties, though the cost of the lawsuits is just loose change for Zuckerberg.
It was alleged that Zuckerberg stole the idea of Facebook from the highly esteemed Winklevoss twins after they asked him to collaborate on a dating website with them.
Sean Parker (a very suave Justin Timberlake) from Napster wormed his way in on the collaboration, leaving his friends in the financial cold.
I thought the movie was a bit slow, and heavy on (intelligent) dialogue (why is it that American college students portrayed in TV and movies talk at a level that I never did when I was a ‘sophomore’?), but I saw some really interesting themes in it.
The tagline of the movie is ‘You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies’. Zuckerberg was a lonely guy with a handful of friends before he generated the Facebook phenomenon, and he lost these when he seemingly used them to build Facebook.
Zuckerberg is portrayed as socially inept, apathetic and preoccupied with the finer points of programming. While he shuffles around Harvard in a hoodie, jeans and Adidas flip flops with socks (I am sure I saw him wearing the flip flip-sock combination in court), he uses conversations with acquaintances to develop the next big thing on Facebook.
Perhaps his social shortcomings is why he was influenced so much by Parker. He wanted to be in the elite finals clubs of Harvard, and it was through developing Facebook could he achieve a sense of this.
My favourite line of the movie was early on, when he was dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright (played by Rooney Mare) in a bar: “You’ll go through life thinking girls dislike you because you’re a nerd. But that’s not true. They will dislike you because you are an asshole.” This line was pertinent through many scenes in the movie, right to the very end when it hit home how lonely Zuckerberg was, despite his raging financial success (he is the world’s youngest billionaire).
The movie made me think about how social networks aren’t separate to one’s ‘real life’ – it’s still a popularity contest, elitism is rife and the term ‘Facebook me’ easily slotted into peoples’ vocabulary within two weeks of Facebook’s Harvard launch.
It also reiterated about the importance of being discreet online. After Zuckerberg was dumped, he wrote disrespectful comments about his former girlfriend on his blog. When he apologised some months later, she made a comment along the lines of content on the internet is not written in erasable pencil.
Be nice to people. Treat them well. Nastiness and deceit will come back to haunt you.
The biggest realisation I had in the movie was that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Facebook started off as a small university website and now has more than 500 million users world-wide. The uptake of Facebook was huge, and is continuing. I wonder whether there will be another thing in my lifetime that generates so much uptake so fast?
You can read a great article about the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in the New York Magazine.