Movie review: The Social Network

By Chris Hammond

In The Social Network, founder Mark Zuckerberg lays out the foundation for the uber-popular social networking website, Facebook. In this virtual version of college social life, he captures that experience with mega success.

Origins of a revolution

As portrayed in this film, the genesis of the ubiquitous and mega-popular social site is Zuckerberg's personal rally against his own adolescent feelings of inadequacy. However, rather than face his Id in some sort of existential soul-searching journey, he opted for an all-out ego-driven push for stardom.

Jilted by a girlfriend and marginalized from the exclusive social scenes of Harvard University, Zuckerberg threw himself into his Facebook project as a sort of vengeful act of social redemption. Looking to stake his own claim to a world that could easily ignore him, he saw the burgeoning power of the web as something that he could spin into his own exclusive club, one that people would be chomping at the bit to get in to.

The irony that the film banks on is that the social outcast becomes a master of social interaction without ever actually becoming sociable. With an almost Asperger-like personality, Zuckerberg's capability for real human connection stands in stark contrast to his ability to manipulate virtual humanity. What the movie doesn't consider, however, is that Facebook may really be Mark Zuckerberg's bid to join humanity.

Official denials, sort of...

I have to admit, I came into the movie with some pre-formed ideas. The book that made this film a reality, The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich, which was based on court documents and disgruntled testimony, had been released for several months and the official reaction to it from Facebook, Inc., was not positive.

Now, official corporate reaction to anything isn't something that I would normally give much credence to. However I generally assign the same level of credible weight to unauthorized biographies.

The disagreement between these two parties, which amounted to "we kind of don't agree," gave me the impression that I was in for a dramatic retelling of something that had never actually occurred. Facts, quotes and reality be damned: I walked away with the feeling that I had just witnessed the unbiased account of history in the making.

It didn't matter that the real Mark Zuckerberg is much more personable than the fictional one. It didn't matter that the real Sean Parker wasn't a completely ego-driven sociopath. The truth of this movie was that Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher captured the zeitgeist of this millennium's Horatio Alger and Jay Gatsby.

Spirit of an age

Of course Sean and Mark may disagree, but the big picture in this event goes way beyond the particulars of the play by play makeup of how Facebook became what it is today. Zuckerberg's slightly rich to incredibly rich and none-the-warier journey shows us just how digital this world has become.

Entirely plugged in and run by numbers, our society gauges its happiness by the daily Dow returns, unemployment rate and weekend box office. These are numbers that the general population would have ignored ten years ago but have come to live by with 24-hour news cycles and continuously refreshed web banners.

The Social Network portrays Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker as people who expected, not just foresaw, this future, while everyone around them was still mired in the not-quite-there-yet present. Perhaps the personal reasons that have driven Facebook's success to mega billions are important as a simple character study.

But I argue that The Social Network would not be quite so compelling without the framework of the modern-day global networking possibilities that Facebook promises. The importance of this movie is not in portraying actual value but in portraying the value of possibility. The foundation of this movie rests on the promise that the social construct of Harvard University translates to a global hope of possibility which, whittled down, is what college and high school value is truly all about -- harnessing the power of possibility.

No matter Facebook's genesis: Mark Zuckerberg offers the ability to lasso oneself to the promise of someone else's possibilities with ease and a permanent record, and The Social Network shows us all those possibilities.

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