Sunday, September 23 , 2018, 3:28 pm | Fair 68º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘The Social Network’

Intriguing film explores the founding and societal effects of Facebook

3 Stars — Intriguing

Human beings are social creatures. From the very first pronouncement in the Book of Genesis that, “It is not good for man to be alone,” to the 500 million people on the Facebook social network, there is no doubt that we crave relationships. But this most recent form of seeking friends is better understood after seeing David Fincher’s The Social Network.

Chronicling Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) social ineptitude yet programming genius that came together in his founding of Facebook, the film begins with Zuckerberg’s sophomore year at Harvard University. That was the year in which he changed the way society connects.

The idea was not really his own. It was the creation of twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Arnie Hammer), who pitched him the idea of creating an exclusive Harvard connection between students. Naively assuming that he wasn’t stealing their idea as long as he didn’t use any of their programming code to create the site, Zuckerberg begins working on the project on his own, avoiding them until he creates the first primitive form of The Facebook in 2004.

The Winklevosses decide to sue. This suit, as well as one by Zuckerberg’s best friend and roommate, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), is used to provide a structure for the telling of the tale.

The strength of the film is in its ability to maintain the complexity of its characters. Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), though clearly the villain, is portrayed as vulnerable and paranoid. This is even more apparent of Zuckerberg and Saverin.

Parker already had been well-known as the founder of the music-sharing Internet site Napster, the predecessor and model for Apple’s wildly successful iTunes. His greed propelled him to separate everyone close to Zuckerberg and to put himself in control of Zuckerberg’s future business interests.

It’s even true of the Winklevoss twins as they struggle to be “Harvard Gentlemen” while still trying to protect their intellectual property stolen by Zuckerberg. The result is a film that shows how things can go horribly wrong as greed and betrayal corrupt vulnerability and naïveté.

The effect the Internet will have on our relationships is still unknown. Revealing things to the world that would have been shared only with the closest of friends a decade ago, or just sharing daily trivia, the social network is stripping away privacy while giving a virtual experience of social connection. With many students saying they would rather relate through the network than in person, the effect this will have on the social needs and nature of human beings can only be imagined.

Like most changes in technology, the social scientists are trying to describe what has already happened but have little ability to predict the future. Only time will tell what the “social network” is doing to all of us, but it is fascinating to learn the story behind its development as well as that of the key players.

Connecting together one-sixth of the world’s population in the past five years didn’t end Zuckerberg’s awkwardness or lack of social connection, but it did make him the youngest billionaire in America. Ironically, all that wealth and fame ended up isolating him more than ever.

Discussion:

» 1. Are you a member of a social network? What has been the effect on your life, for good and for bad?

» 2. When you Google your name, what information do you find on the Internet that you wish wasn’t there? Do you Google other people you know to find out things that it would be better if you didn’t know?

» 3. The film ends with Zuckerberg looking at Erika Albright’s (Rooney Mara) Facebook page in lonely regret. Do you believe that Zuckerberg, as the youngest billionaire in the world, will be able to find love? Why or why not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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