Amy and I watched The Social Network over the weekend. As critics have noted, this is a surprisingly captivating film given its subject. If you don’t know, it’s the story of how Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, becoming the youngest billionaire in the process. It’s also about how he may have cheated his best friend and stolen the idea from three other Harvard students. What makes the movie interesting is Zuckerberg himself. As portrayed by the fine young actor Jesse Eisenberg and written by the great Aaron Sorkin, the film’s Zuckerberg is a living Citizen Kane, a man with all the money in the world, but without friends or anyone who truly loves or cares for him. The enigma of Kane was his dying word, “rosebud,” which turns out to be the name of the sled he used as a child, the symbol of his lost youth and innocence — perhaps the last time he was truly happy. Zuckerberg’s rosebud may be a Boston University student, Erica, whose rejection of him toppled the first domino that led to Facebook. In a very short time, Zuckerberg goes from an obscure nerd among the wealthy and privileged students of Harvard, to one of the richest men in the world. As the movie ends, after he’s participated in two depositions in which he defends his actions in lawsuits brought by his friend and the frat-boys he may have swindled, we watch over Zuckerberg’s shoulder as he attempts to “friend” Erica on Facebook… If that’s not a “rosebud” moment, I don’t know what is.
Zuckerberg comes across as a sympathetic character, a genius in many ways, but someone with very under-developed people skills. He also, apparently, has a malfunctioning moral compass; which, in fact, is probably necessary equipment for any fortune. Becoming rich isn’t so hard, as long as you’re willing to eat your friends and colleagues on the way up. We are really good at rewarding assholes; and really bad at rewarding people who do genuine good.
Facebook may have changed the way we communicate, but what really is it worth? Investors say $50 billion, but all it produces is a vast database of information about its users. Anyone who thinks that information is NOT going to be misused is fooling themselves. First of all, Facebook was founded by a guy with shaky — at best — ethics. But more importantly, with $50 billion on the line, Wall Street bankers are going to do whatever it takes to make a profit from that money. There is legislation supposedly percolating that would protect online privacy, but don’t be fooled. Congress is the puppet of Wall Street, as has been proved time and again to the detriment of everyone else. They are not going to legislate away Wall Street’s golden goose. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen.
For more about how Facebook makes money, see this article.
In the meantime, The Social Network is a film worth watching because it is entertaining, whatever you think of Facebook and its founder.