Facebook: The misogynist with 500 million friends

Submitted by martin on 3 November, 2010 - 9:03 Author: Daisy Thomas
Facebook

"I want to take the entire college experience and put it online". That's what Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) says in The Social Network when he is outlining the idea for "the Facebook" in 2003.

The Social Network is a complicated and amusing look at the conception and development of the world's most popular social networking site - now, with more than 500 million users in 207 countries, worth a cool 25 billion dollars.

The story starts off with a boy and a girl, as most stories do. On an evening in 2003, Zuckerberg, then a student at Harvard University, USA, got dumped by his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). Zuckerberg drunkenly and angrily blogged about her, then created "Facemash". Essentially, "Facemash" was a rating site for the hotness of the girls on the Harvard campus. He got their photos through incredibly complicated hacking skills.

That first creation generated so much traffic (22,000 hits) that the Harvard server crashed. Zuckerberg explained that young men were attracted to it because they could comment on girls they knew – not strangers, but girls they knew. It had more grip than sites like "hotornot.com".

"Facemash" earned Zuckerberg notoriety and started the chain of events which led to betrayal, losing a friend, other personal vileness - and becoming a billionaire.

After "Facemash", he was approached by Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss (Armie Hammer) who controlled the prestigious "Porcellian Club". Zuckerberg expressed interest in the idea of creating a site where information and photos could be shared among friends within the exclusive confines of Harvard University.

However, he short-changed the Winklevosses and began designing "the Facebook" instead of creating their website.

From this point, most of the movie’s story was told through flashbacks from the two separate lawsuits Zuckerberg faced. The first was the Winklevoss suit. They sued him for breach of contract and intellectual property theft.

In their opinion, Zuckerberg took their idea "HarvardConnect" and adapted it for Facebook.

The second lawsuit, put forward by Eduardo Salverin (Zuckerberg's CFO and former friend, played by Andrew Garfield), covered several areas including ownership of shares, involvement, and money. Distaste for Zuckerberg's new friend and business partner, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) may have contributed.

Despite the fact that his character is so very annoying, Timberlake’s performance is superb. Garfield also does a fantastic job, really evoking sympathy for his character when Zuckerberg treats him disrespectfully, cuts him out, and screws him out of money.

This disrespectful behaviour was not just for Salverin, however. Although he would become a billionaire from a scheme advertised as making friendship easier, Zuckerberg seems to spend most of the movie existing in his own bubble, not really taking anything or anyone seriously.

This can be seen in his dismissal of the Harvard server security breach and later, with his dismissal of the "cease and desist" letter about Facebook from the Winklevosses. For him, that shows how: “you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”.

Only at the end of the movie does Zuckerberg show some vulnerability.

In general, the film was a really interesting look at how this major internet phenomenon came about, and the cast performs brilliantly. The director, David Fincher, as well as the writers, Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) and Ben Mezrich (author of The Accidental Billionaire, on which The Social Network is based), should be commended on their achievement.

Even if you’re not so utterly addicted that you have to check Facebook four or five times a day, I recommend watching this film because it shows how a single idea (and a lot of vile behaviour) can kick-start a billion dollar enterprise.

Comments

Submitted by martin on Fri, 05/11/2010 - 11:36

"Use values must never be looked upon as the real aim of the capitalist; neither must the profit on any single transaction. The restless never-ending process of profit-making alone is what [the capitalist] aims at... [the] boundless greed after riches".

So wrote Marx, and he was right.

All of us, every day, buy and consume lots of stuff produced and marketed by vicious capitalist corporations. Without it we would starve.

Electronic computers and the Internet owe their development largely to imperialist military machines. We can still use them.

We can put Facebook to good use, too. But, as with every capitalist enterprise, for the capitalists, the social utility of their product is a side-issue. What matters for them is the extraction of surplus-value.

In the case of Facebook, its "good sides" could better be provided by a public service, rather than by a capitalist enterprise geared to maximising advertising revenue.

Martin Thomas

PS: a useful review article by Stephen Burt on this and related issues:

click here. "None of the people who developed Facebook expected to bring those changes [good and bad, in facility of communication] about: they wanted and thought about nothing but money and sex..."

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