Wednesday, September 15, 2010
The Social Network: a nasty movie about Facebook and Harvard
From October 1st, the first viewers will watch a new movie called "The Social Network" about the birth of Facebook. The trailer above is enough to understand that its main founder, Mark Zuckerberg, will be presented as a jerk. In particular, the statement that he was dreaming about joining the "final clubs" is almost certainly a malicious lie.
He would study at Harvard in 2003 when the Facebook was getting born. At 1:04 of the trailer above, you may see the actual old website of the Elliot House - where your humble correspondent would have two nice lunches and one fancy dinner every week in 2001-2004 because it hosted (and hosts) the headquarters of the Society of Fellows. However, Zuckerberg lived in Suite H33 of the adjacent Kirkland House - that's exactly where the murder of Justin Cosby took place.
Of course, at that time, I didn't know the name of Mark Zuckerberg, whom I probably had to physically meet many times, and if I had known it, I had immediately forgotten it. :-)
At 1:36 of the trailer, you may see the door of Maxwell-Dworkin, a key computer science building at Harvard that is physically connected to the physics department where I worked. I guess (but I am not sure) that the building in the movie is not the actual Maxwell-Dworkin Hall: much of the movie was being shot at Johns Hopkins, pretending to be Harvard.
Zuckerberg whose wealth representing about 24% of Facebook may be worth $4 billion or so was the main driver behind the creation of Facebook. While I don't want to overestimate how difficult it was to start and expand this project, it was a damn obviously viable project.
After all, most people - unfortunately - don't use the Internet to submit and read the latest preprints on physics. And most Internet users don't even follow The Reference Frame. ;-) They want to waste their time by doing the same social bullshitting that they do in the real life, too. Like, hehe, hihi, picture, it sucks - that's the kind of activity that rules the world. :-)
Because of these inherent limitations of most people, Facebook - that brought the old concept of a social network to the level of the state-of-the-art standards on the web - obviously had to become successful. Zuckerberg had to be stubborn if he wanted the website - originally bringing the web social life to the Harvard students - to ultimately emerge as an important part of the Internet. But it had to work.
He's rich enough that I would recommend him to hire his own movie team to shoot a movie that will celebrate him and trash the critics. That may be the most effective way to deal with the jealous zeros who are behind "The Social Network". ;-)
Even in the negative painting of the movie, I would probably sympathize with Zuckerberg in most cases. The lady in the committee at the end of the trailer clearly had no clue about the real world. While not being an example of a truly scholarly piece of work, Facebook was another invention that showed that Harvard mattered. They displayed a lack of contact with the reality when they were talking to the emerging billionaire as if they were talking to a 5-year-old boy who just stole a chocolate.
And her "I don't understand" is quite typical. When someone says "I don't understand" as a reply to a very clear sentence that preceded and that has a point, to say the least, then she is just damn stupid, and "Which part?" is just the most polite yet sensible reaction one can add. ;-)
Also, Facebook represents an inherent threat for the people's privacy. Obviously, their unmasked privacy is what drives the whole website. So this concept of an unmasked privacy is the main reason why people go there: it's a key that unlocks the gates to the users' satisfaction and the owners' financial heaven; the same key obviously unlocks the hell, too. ;-)
They must deal with these issues all the time. But just because the treatment of privacy isn't perfect on the real Facebook doesn't imply that the website should be viewed as a net liability. Obviously, it's not. It's worth $15 billion or so. And this money is not stolen - this value reflects the difference between the people's actual satisfaction and their dissatisfaction with the website's services.