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The Social Network

imageOn my flight back from Tokyo, I finally watched The Social Network, Hollywood’s depiction of the founding of Facebook.

While at least one of my good friends is going to be appalled by my opinion here, I actually liked the movie. Does it paint an unrealistically evil/status-obsessed/backstabbing-prone portrayal of Harvard students and hence is kind of an insult to me? Yes. Was it a truthful account that can be used as a historical document one day? Probably not. Was it a action thriller which kept me at the edge of my seat? No. Do I enjoy the weird undertone that implies successful entrepreneurs are all geeks, antisocial, socially awkward, vengeful, jealous, addicted to drugs, paranoid, or some combination of the above? No.

So why did I enjoy it? Two reasons.

The first is purely nostalgia. It takes me back to my Freshman year, when the site had just started. I attended the Bill Gates presentation that was referenced there. I had friends in Kirkland house (where Zuckerberg built FaceMash and Facebook). I’ve looked over the Harvard student code of conduct that the Winklevoss twins tried to use with the Harvard President (who’s office I’ve walked by). Heck, after college, two of my friends went to work for Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who put money into Facebook in the movie. So the story, in its own weird way, is an odd re-telling of a world I inhabited – and so I can’t help but be drawn to it if only for that.

The second reason is that the portrayal of Zuckerberg just felt very natural. I don’t mean that I felt it was accurate – but Jesse Eisenberg delivered a performance of Zuckerberg which seemed human and believable. Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg was arrogant, vulnerable, brilliant, hard-working, misunderstood, misled, and eager – all at once – and that’s something which is hard to write and hard to portray. I personally could’ve done without the excessive stereotyping of geeks and Harvard, but if I view this as a purely fictional piece about the flawed people who put together something bigger than themselves, I think I can call myself a fan.

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