The Social Network

The David Fincher/Aaron Sorkin film collaboration called “The Social Network” is not about technology, though there are scenes that suggest how code is produced through focused work (which actually looks boring when you’re watching it “IRL” (in real life), without Fincher’s hyperactive perspective – but is so engaging you can lose yourself totally in the process when you’re the one actually producing the code).  The film is more about the entrepreneurial spirit, what it takes to have a vision and see it through. The real visionary in the film, Mark Zuckerberg, appears far less intense IRL than Jesse Eisenberg’s interpretation would suggest, but his drive and work ethic are undeniable. It’s not an accident that a guy in his twenties produced a billion-dollar platform; he could have been derailed if he’d lacked the persistence of vision and intent that the film shows so clearly. And, of course, he was kind of a jerk, probably without meaning to be. That kind of focus and drive tends to override comfortable social graces, kind of ironic when you’re building a social platform.

Larry Lessig complains that Sorkin’s ignorance of Internet technology caused him to miss the real story here, that Facebook exists because the Internet is free and open and presents few barriers to innovation. But I don’t think Sorkin wanted to write that story – he found drama in the Zuckerberg vs world conflict and wrote the story he had to write, acknowledging that he made no attempt to be true-to-fact.  He does pick up on the IP issue, and the fact that Zuckerberg shouldn’t have been forced to pay the Winkelvoss twins (there’s a line in the film where Zuckerberg says a guy who builds a better chair shouldn’t have to share his profits with anybody else who’s thought about building a chair before he got to it). In the film, he’s clearly having to pay because his grating personality and arrogance make him unattractive, not on the merit of the facts of the case. Eduardo Saverin seems in the film to have been screwed over, though one could argue that dilution of his shares was justifiable owing to a lack of commitment to the enterprise. More here.

After seeing the film, and reading and thinking some more about the creation and evolution of Facebook, I find that I have more respect for Zuckerberg’s genius and his drive… but like many I’m concerned about his apparent lack of social and ethical depth, especially since Facebook is how so many people today experience the Internet. Working on a talk about the future of the Internet, I’m finding that one plausible scenario is that Facebook replaces the web as a kind of operating system/interface. What are the implications?

Author: Jon Lebkowsky

Co-wrangler of Plutopia News Network, cohost Radio Free Plutopia. Podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. Former editor/publisher, FringeWare Review; associate editor at bOING bOING and Factsheet Five; writer at Mondo 2000, 21C, Wired, Whole Earth Review, Austin Chronicle; sub-editor at Millennium Whole Earth Catalog; blogger at Worldchanging. Digital culture maven, podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. On The WELL, Cohost of VC (virtual communities), Media, and Civil War (.ind) conferences.

One thought on “The Social Network”

  1. On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history…but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications. (Sony Pictures)

    THE SOCIAL NETWORK is not about Facebook. It’s about Mark Zuckerberg and the people associated with him and the consequences that arise with the evolution of Facebook. In an even broader sense, it’s about friends being driven apart due to money and betrayal. Because of this, it’s no surprise that many have already compared this to CITIZEN KANE. And it’s not just the similarities in themes that are astounding, it’s the quality as well.

    What makes THE SOCIAL NETWORK so good is the masterfully written script by Aaron Sorkin. The film is filled with impeccable dialog that just sucks you in. It would be no surprise if the film won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Director David Fincher also does a great job keeping the audience captivated through and through with a consistently fast pace. Really, you’ll probably be drawn to the film’s opening argument between two characters than any other scene this year. All right, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. It’s not Fincher’s best work, but it’s in the top 3.

    Jesse Eisenberg and co-star Andrew Garfield are the driving force behind this film. Eisenberg does a terrific job delivering the lines as he did while Garfield brings in an emotional aspect to the film. Although both are quite excellent, Garfield’s performance is Oscar worthy. Rooney Mara is quickly getting up the ladder after having last seen her in the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in the beginning of the year. She’s just in a few scenes, but she’s great in them. I would have like to see her more in the film, though. Apparently, Armie Hammer played two characters as twins in the film, which really blew me away when I found out because I thought they were two different actors. He really distinguished the characters really well. Oh, and if you’re worried about Justin Timberlake, don’t be. He’s really good in here. I also loved Rashida Jones in the few scenes she was in.

    With terrific performances from the cast all around, a brilliant script, some fine directing by Fincher, and an engaging score by Trent Reznor, it should be no surprise that THE SOCIAL NETWORK succeeded the way it did. Although it’s a 2-hour dialog driven film, it absolutely engrossing to watch. If anything, this is probably the closest modern version of CITIZEN KANE that we will ever get in a long time. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is easily one of the best films of the year.

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