Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Social Network

In the story of Facebook According to Sorkin, the social network was founded on a potent mix of ambition, intelligence, and let's not forget resentment !  The brilliant, nerdy Jewish kid leapfrogs Harvard's best and brightest and shows 'em all, including the girl who jilted him, that superior outcomes trump honor, style, ethics, love, and friendship.  OK, got it.  Don't try this one at home.

As entertainment, the movie delivers in every way.  I was riveted, mostly because I couldn't afford not to be.  The film moved so quickly that even a bathroom break mid-film would have been fatal to following the plot line.  Whether deliberately or not, the director created a frantic tension that recalled how others must have felt trying to keep up with Mark Z during the early years---and perhaps even now.

The film version of the Facebook founding leaves no doubt that Mark 'appropriated' the idea of facebook from others working on similar projects, perhaps the Winklevoss twins (hilariously described by Mark's film character as the 'Winklevii').  Whether or not the story was strictly accurate on that score, it made for great drama and the lawsuits among the parties were the central organizing elements of the film.  Convenient.

All that being said, the more compelling "why's" of the story are simplistically told.  The "Rosebud" ending nearly spoiled the entire effort for me.  Much like the breezy and successful television dramas that Sorkin is known for, this film is at its best when it helps us understand character through action and behavior but at its worst when at levels below skin-deep.  

Have been thinking about and experiencing models of success all my life, and have been fortunate enough to work with and know some very successful people.  My question about Mark Z and the Facebook/Silicon Valley culture represented on the film: is it necessary to work this way?  We all know arrogant, ego-driven jerks like Mark Z, but most of those who made it to the top are hard-working, driven, but also among the most courteous, thoughtful people I know.  The notion that Mark Z might be a hero for the 20- and 30-something generation is ludicrous and scary.  The movie shows very little that is heroic about him, but it models a kind of success that never interested me, in spite of the lure of billions that I will never have.


  1. I am reading the Facebook Effect now and probably because the author has had ongoing access to Zuckerberg for several years, a different picture emerges than the Sorkin/Ben Mezrich view. The book starts out with all the social good that FB has done and can do as a revolutionary communication system and initially portrays Z. as the ultimate CEO who is interested in "transparency" and "getting things done" rather than making money. You probably also saw that Z. gave away almost all his money to charity as part of the Gates et al initiative.

  2. Good reminder, Scooby, that Facebook is not an Evil Empire, or....??? Salute the charitable gesture though cannot bring myself to admire a CEO who is more interested in process than financial outcomes. Blame it on the HBS in me. At its best, FB has been a force for good---after all, it brought us back in touch. I'll go with that....