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The Social Network

We all like rags to riches stories, but this film is more of a socially empty but brilliant student at an exclusive American University to riches story. I couldn’t help but be fascinated at the way the Zuckerberg character nailed a structure which could attract so many users and so many users so fast. Also really interesting is his understanding that the old model of using advertising to “monetize” the idea was the wrong way to go.

Zuckerberg is portrayed in a very unflattering light, as a character who posesses a tag-team of lovable characteristics – he’s both uncaring and cruel. And along the way he gets mentored by Sean Parker, played very well by Justin Timberlake, a character who is basically a selfish and self-indulgent jerk. And yet we’re riveted to the whole business because of the monsterous success of the venture.

Facebook users have one attribute and that is that they are the judges of what the Zuckerberg character calls cool. Several times in the film, it is suggested that Facebook is cool and Zuckerberg doesn’t want to lose that. Otherwise, users are just that quantity that need to be manipulated or influenced.

What the movie fails to provide is much context for the nature of Zuckerberg’s character. When we meet him he already has poor social skills, he’s rude and unfeeling and petulant and ambitious. I wonder what his family life was like? Perhaps the point is you need to be unfeeling to break down the social experience of college and translate it into a structure that enables users to make social connections through a computer network without having to actually have any face to face social interaction.

To put my own comments in context, I should disclose that I am not a Facebook user, so while I recognize the curious attractiveness of this social network, I have not experienced it first hand. I suppose that is odd for someone who has been a blogger for a number of years, but I simply haven’t been interested. I don’t use Twitter either and, while I’m in full disclosure mode, I don’t own a personal cell phone either. My alter ego does have a presence on Linked In, with connections mostly to people I know through my day job.

The Social Network is a good film, largely because of the story, and it’s supported by some very good performances. I noted that on Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 97% critics approval rating, very high indeed. I don’t think it’s a great film though. On the 5 fish Anchovy Rating Scale, I give this one a solid 3 salties.

8 Comments

  1. Azahar, I agree that Facebook looks very different than most blog formats, but I am meaning they are the same idea/function anthropologically and socially…not by style or appearance. They both are web logs with social formats and connect people in a similar manner. I extend the similarities to the cave paintings in Europe, to bookclubs and all manner of friendships and business “networks”. I mean network closer to the scientific and physics model applied anthropologically.

    I think it’s an interesting view on the movie that it’s as if Mister Anchovy and I have seen two different movies. I have really been enjoying hearing other peoples reaction to this story. it has produced a lot of different reactions from audiences…often divided into reactions that the movie is misogynistic, these are all jerks or viewers like me who saw Mark Z as a hero and pirate who protected his own art and creativity. Sure, he was a very immature boyfriend, (he was 19) but a hero pirate at the end of the day.

  2. I’d like to see this film. Gotta disagree with STAGG candy that Facebook is anything like WordPress or Blogger (it isn’t), and it’s also very different from Twitter.

    I have FB accounts simply because other people do and it can be moderately useful for business contacts. But I’d really much rather have nothing to do with it as it has a very unattractive and cluttered interface, plus there are still serious privacy concerns.

    I find Twitter to be an amazing social media tool for driving traffic to my blogs and websites … it’s also a great way to connect with people. I’ve met friends, business contacts – and also just got a new job! – all thanks to being active on Twitter. If you think of it as micro-blogging then it begins to make sense.

    I just checked and the film is being shown at the one cinema here that has films in original version (can’t stand watching anything dubbed) so I’ll try to get to it this weekend.

  3. Oops sorry about all my spelling mistakes…i’m really tired when I checked in here ha ha. I didn’t read it over before i pressed send…

  4. Okay…I can agree that he is cruel and insensitive…and so are his friends. I don’t see him as more cruel than his buddies…I saw him as fairly acurate representation of a lot of guys. Especially a lot of guys in high school and young for their age at college. All his buddies were in on trashing the women at school.

    So…although i see him as cruel on one level…I also see him as a hero and artist. He is a hacker. He totally didn’t let those preppy assed twins and rich kids take avantage of him. Sure, he was insensitive to his girlfriend. She had a good idea to dump him…but so many of those kids are out there trying to get with the power kids. Like the frat boys and preppies. This hacker stuck it to them all.

    I wish he hadn’t blown it with his girlfriend, but it seemed a fairly typical selfish early relationship blunder. The one that got away. And notice, the very thing he said to his girlfiend that pissed her off, the preppy twins said to him. They would “get him in to the social circle”. Revenge is not nice…but I could understand why he wanted revenge. The jocks and rich kids always get all the girls. And so many of the girls don’t appreciate the kind of creativity and imagination he had. They prefer the rock star..so when the nasty geeks turned into rock stars I felt a kind of exhilaration for them. The kind of payback he played out we used to see in the hallways of school in gossip. We see it carried over to the internet in this setting. (and life)

    What I found interesting about the scrpt and characters was that almost everyone was unlikeable, but I did care about each of their perspectives. I thought the twins were hilarious. I thought Mark V was hilarious.

    I think you made a great comarison with bobby Fischer and I believe he had some kind of Asbergers too. No oen says it in the movie…but it seemed to me and I said so in my post about this movie, that I believe he had Asbergers or some form of Autism syndrome. The way he avoided eye contact and his total lack of understanding social stuff. I remember a lot of really good artists in school having similar problems. Or some of my friends who were really good at math and science. There does seem to be at least some degree of social failure in a lot of people who work with their imaginations like this hacker.

    I think the very title of the film indicates it is about people and our relationships. Our survival as an animal depends on the way we have evolved a series of social constructs and interdependence and one of the brilliant ironies in this story is how a social misfit came up with creating a format for interpersonal communications and blogging. As much as he was lousy at being a good friend…he seemed to have a strong need to invent something that was good for people to communicate with, and part of the contraction of his personality was that he was reacting to not having human valedation and approval. And his attitude to making a workspace and work environment seemed very humanistic.

    I’d like to believe that the real life person Mark V who we see as a fictional 19 year old in the movie might have learned some lessons about being friends and has grown up by now with a little more savvy and kindness.

    • So I guess you’re saying that hackers are heros because they “stick it to the man”, but if you look at it that way, maybe you’d have to say that it’s really a tragic situation because with Facebook, the hacker becomes the new “man”, and he’s no more attractive than the old one.

      I don’t think Zukerberg (the character…I don’t know anything about the real guy) is interested in friendship at all, but really he’s interested in connection, and that’s what Facebook is about, isn’t it? Friends on facebook are connections, names allowed into the club of me because I say so. He’s a hopeless failure at friendship because friendship will never be the sum of all the Facebook elements, not even when you add in snazzy Facebook Platform apps (oh jeez, I can’t believe I used the word apps in a sentence…har).

      I think this film is interesting precisely because it is about the creation of Facebook, because Facebook has emerged as a phenomenon that in some ways defines an era…this very era we’re living in. I attended a marketing conference a while back because there was a speaker there who interested me, and at a certain point in one of the presentations what I heard was blah blah blah Facebook blah Tweet Twitter blah blah Facebook blah bah. Insert Facebook and Twitter and it becomes current and maybe you can sell it to people who are still living among the dinosaurs.

      Let’s look at what is meant by Facebook is cool. Cool can mean so many things. In this case, I think cool means accepted without the red-flag that says you’re being marketed to or manipulated. Adding ads would take away from this. Ads are about playing the game at a small or low level. The Sean Parker character is the one who first vocalizes the idea of playing for the bigger bag of marbles.

      I think of heros as people who do difficult or brave things or who sacrifice themselves for some notion of the greater good. I think that is irrelevant to the film’s protagonist. I don’t think of this character as an artist either, really. Maybe more like a social engineer?

  5. Geez, I didn’t see it as a movie about friendship at all. I’m trying in my little brain to substitute the comparisons you made and see if I can imagine a similar movie. Maybe if we used chess clubs, we could come up with Searching for Bobby Fischer, but then I’d argue that perhaps both movies might in part be about how difficult it is to exist as a prodigy. Central to this film was a phenomenon of epic proportions in which the protagonist saw the construct with a remarkable clarity of vision. I don’t see the film as being about corruption in a loss of innocence kind of way in which the main character, flush with his newfound enormous wealth becomes evil. I don’t think he changes in the film really. He’s out there on his own plane and is cruel and insensitive from early on.

  6. Fascinating. I didn’t think the movie was about Facebook or its creation. Facebook is just another web log unit much like “blogger” or “word press”. Or the cave paintings in Europe, or a rolodex, or a bookclub, or church or Freemasons, or chess clubs.

    I thought it was partly about about how many people screw up as they are going through the stages of growing up. And about how greed and money can corrupt everything. I found the loss of friendships absolutely heartbreaking. It was refreshing to see this kind of corruption played out with young people, with buddies where we have come to see it usually played out with older CEOs and spouses.

    It is one of the best movies on friendship I’ve ever seen.

  7. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Social Network | 27th Street -- Topsy.com

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