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The Social Network: Why Over50s Should See the Facebook Movie
By Marilynne Rudick on October 28, 2010
The movie The Social Network won’t change your mind about Facebook. If you love it, you’ll find adequate evidence to support your belief that it’s the greatest invention of the 21st Century. If you hate Facebook, you’ll find adequate evidence to support your belief that it endangers our privacy and is a serious threat to our society.
The movie tells the story of the birth of Facebook as an online network for Harvard students and its exponential growth into a worldwide social network. (The movie ends in 2004 when Facebook reached 1 million members: it now has over 500 million members).
Whether you love or hate Facebook, the movie has all the elements of great storytelling. It has compelling but flawed characters who clash over different ambitions:
- Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard undergrad computer programmer and nerd whose passion is the idea.
- Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s roommate who wants to monetize the idea by selling ads.
- Sean Parker, the founder of Napster who changed the music industry but emerged penniless. He wants a do-over, a chance to make the fortune that’s eluded him.
- The Winklevoss twins, Harvard classmates who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea.
Throw in the powerful motivation of payback and revenge: Parker wants to get back at the establishment responsible for the demise of Napster. Zuckerberg wants revenge on the girl who spurned him. The Winklevoss twins want revenge on Zuckerberg for stealing their idea. And finally Saverin wants payback for being marginalized and shut out of Facebook.
Add to that the universal theme of belonging: to Harvard’s elite clubs, to a social class that takes privilege for granted, to an online network—Facebook– that anybody can join, but which uses the number of friends as the measure of belonging.
There’s the intellectual debate. Who owns an idea? Did Zuckerberg steal the Winklevoss twins’ idea? Do ideas matter, or is it the execution of an idea that counts? What is a new idea? As Zuckerberg says in the movie, “A guy who makes a new chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who ever built a chair.”
Then there’s irony: Mark Zuckerberg, a computer nerd who’s socially inept and whose personal social network consists of one friend is the visionary behind Facebook, the ultimate social network.
While The Social Network is lauded as the iconic story of this generation, its story of ambition and conflict transcends age. The tale is played out in invention after invention: airplane, radio, telephone.
That’s the slant that interested screenwriter Aaron Sorkin whose credits include A Few Good Men, The American President and The West Wing. In a New York magazine interview, Sorkin, who is on the cusp of 50, notes that his social networking is limited to e-mail.
Bottom line: go see the movie with your friends. Then go out to dinner. The meaty themes and characters provide plenty of grist to discuss and debate.