Let’s Talk Facebook & ‘The Social Network’

Jay and I saw The Social Network this past weekend and like many of the Tweets or Facebook updates I’ve seen, we thought it was awesome.  Sure, it was an origin story that was most definitely Hollywood-ized, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s the ultimate origin story, dramatization and all, because well…it’s a real life ‘hero’ & it’s our generation’s ‘hero’s’ real life origin story.  Come on, who doesn’t wish they could come up with an idea for something, work on it for a month and then have it lead to $1 billion?  I sure as hell would & I’m not one bit ashamed to admit that.

So let’s talk The Facebook – I’m goin’ old school because my college roommates Amanda, Sarah & I used to always refer to it as that, even after it dropped the ‘The’.  The Facebook is one of the very things that many of us have become so dependent on that we cannot imagine nor remember life before it; we’ll never know what it’s like to have to pick up a phone and call a college roommate to see how they’re doing or have to mail an invitation to find out if someone wanted to come to our birthday party.  Sure, you could make a case for forefathers MySpace, LiveJournal, or even Friendster but the reason that Facebook is important enough to make a movie out of and MySpace isn’t is simple: Those social networks, while important to the history or evolution of social networks, were things that everyone would have grown out of.  And many of us did. 

Think back to the late 1990’s/early-mid 2000’s.  AOL’s Instant Messenger.  How many of you were in high school or college (primarily college because then you had your own computer) when AIM was in its prime?  Remember Away Messages?  When you could let everyone know you were going to class or to bed or express yourself through song lyric or movie quotation and it was totally socially acceptable to accept that you’d be “stalked” through your away message?  I remember in either late 2002 or early 2003, there was a period that AIM was down and it was the first time we all felt a panic over social technology.  “How will my high school BFF know what I’m doing?  How will the girl on the floor below me who I’m supposed to meet for dinner know where I am?  How will I know how so-and-so is feeling?”

I remember this outage, however brief in the scheme of things it was, because in hindsight, AIM was just the beginning of social network dependency.  The Facebook evolved into something bigger than that.  Facebook is the ultimate AIM.  Yeah, it has elements of MySpace because it is a social network but Facebook is one of the reasons that I stopped using AIM.  Status Update replaced Away Messages and I don’t even NEED to be online for someone to leave me a message!  Jay told me last year that his classmates wanted to chat about class assignments over Facebook chat rather than thru AIM.  Honestly, my reaction was “Why on earth would they not want your screen name?!”  Now I get it.  Facebook is a the hub for all things social media and all things social.  Even our parents AND GRANDPARENTS have learned how to use it.

For those of us who joined early on, it was just this:


…Facebook looks a little bit different now and its creators have made it so big time that they get a movie made about them a mere SIX YEARS after they began.

So the movie.  The Social Network was awesome.  I’m going to address the fact vs. fiction aspect in just a long-winded moment, but to strictly review it on a movie level, it was great.  Well-written by Aaron Sorkin, well-directed by David Fincher, and well-acted (I read on a message board this morning a poster suggesting to send Justin Timberlake on down to Oscarville & it made me laugh).  It turned the complicated story of the beginning of Facebook into a simple movie concept.  It has drama, motive, conflict, and somewhat of a conclusion.  The protagonist (Jesse Eisenberg as Marc Zuckerberg) is also the antagonist and it works.  Trent Reznor’s score was terrific and added something to each scene.  At no point did the movie drag.  I usually look at my watch about an hour into most movies to begin my countdown to when it ends but I never checked the time once.  The origin of The Facebook is relevant and fascinating.  I cannot say how much I enjoyed watching The Social Network on an entertainment level.

Now, I like being an educated viewer.  The Social Network is clearly a dramatization of real life events and there certainly are liberties taken for the purpose of the plot, so I did some research.  For instance, Zuckerberg met his current girlfriend, Priscella Chan, during his sophomore year of college which changes the subtext of his motivations somewhat, especially since Rooney Mara’s character is completey made up.  He was also accused of hacking into Facebook users’ personal emails in 2005.  The timing of the movie is also exaggerated somewhat: Facemash, for example, was created over the last week in October 2003, not in one drunken, revenge-filled night as the movie suggests.  JT Sean Parker was arrested for cocaine but on a trip to North Carolina in August 2005, not in summer 2004, although a female under-21 Facebook employee was with him on the trip.  It was investor Peter Thiel who not-so-dramatically convinced both Parker and Zuckerberg that it was time for them to part ways.

However, it’s not just Zuckerberg’s story that’s changed for sake of the story.  Eduardo Saverin, Facebook’s first investor, served as the primary source material for Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires” so it’s no wonder that a movie based on the book paints him as the victim of Zuckerberg’s betrayal.  But according to Business Insider, Saverin wasn’t a total saint.  During the summer when Mark &  Dustin Moskovitz (who wasn’t actually a programming guy but rather an operations guy) moved out to Palo Alto, Saverin ran unauthorized ads for his own new start-up site on The Facebook without giving anyone else a heads up.  He also alledgedly went MIA during that summer of 2004, declining to fly out at first in order to sign off on reforming Facebook as a company which haulted any financial deals Facebook LLC could’ve made to get additional funding from bigger investors.  This allegedly is what led to Mark’s decision to out him as CFO, not just Sean Parker’s influence.  And finally, the Winklevuss twins weren’t so much “Men of Harvard” like the movie made them out to be.  They definitely went to the Harvard Crimson in Spring 2004 to tattle on Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing their idea.

To be fair, Sorkin did read the actual transcripts from all the Facebook lawsuits and use them for accuarcy in the litigation scenes the information such as the emails he sent to the Winklevoi were true and are matter of public record.  And he did talk to Natalie Portman to get the scoop on the final clubs and we all know a movie actress would never tell a lie.

Well, now I’ve gone on and on yet again.  If you’ve made it down this far, I thank you.  Here’s the bottom line:  Like it or not and despite whose idea it really was, The Facebook changed social interaction for a lot of people when Mark Zuckerberg hit “Publish” on February 4, 2004.  In my opinion, the movie, though a fictional account of a non-fiction event, is a great film and definitely worth your two hours, $12, and a “Like”.

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