Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Facing "The Social Network"

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Facing "The Social Network"

Monday, November 1, 2010

Judging by how empty the theater was, I was probably was among the last people in Cambridge to see “The Social Network.” Since I saw it I’ve been unable to get it out of my mind.

It’s not the accuracy of the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg that I’ve been wondering about or the merit of the lawsuits brought against him by those who felt they had been done wrong in the Facebook creation story. And, though the look at undergraduate life at Harvard is cringe-inducing and depressing, that’s not what has been staying with me either.

Here’s the thing: Zuckerberg, rightly or wrongly, is pictured as socially dysfunctional. His one friendship, with Eduardo Saverin--which actually seems like generosity on Saverin’s part--is tossed away with, well, did I detect even a flicker of regret. Nowhere in the film is any indication that Zuckerberg, brilliant though he is, has any real connection to any other human being. He appears in the same room with other people; he talks with other people, though the subject matter here is always Facebook-related, but there is no sense that any human interaction is taking place. It’s all about the work, work that has, admittedly, rewarded his single-mindedness with unprecedented wealth and power.

I admit that, just like 500 million others, I’m on Facebook. It’s fun to catch up with friends I might not otherwise be in touch with very often. And some of my “friends” are people I don’t really know or barely know, but whom I like or admire or am interested in and am glad to be a little in contact with. Put down in writing, that does sound strange, but never mind. You understand, I know you do. Everyone’s doing it.

And that’s what I can’t stop thinking about about “The Social Network”: this is essentially the story of a loner who, despite being apparently socially clueless and not all that interested in other people, has created a way for them to interact. And the way we interact on Facebook, the way we think of our connections to other people, the way we've learned to use the word "friend" is...well...kind of like Mark Zuckerberg.

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