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I was blown away by The Social Network, a mixture of both the feeding of my curiosityThe Social Network flourished at the box office this weekend. at the social phenomenon, and the way in which the film displays the growth of 'thefacebook' from literal dorm room to boardroom in a span of two hours.

The dialogue is ingenious, fast-paced, and overladen with such melancholy by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that I don't think a smile ever crossed his face in the entire film. How a person can be so consumed by loneliness in the face of social growth around him is astounding. The movie succeeds on one of many levels because as a viewer, you not only despise Zuckerberg but also feel sympathy for him.

That emotional connection for me is key (as in any movie), and by the end, I felt hatred, disbelief, and sadness. I don't know if I ever felt...happy, because while creationism and creativity (wholly different) are at the forefront, there is destruction of trust and of friendship, the latter being wholly what the product was meant to stimulate. Oh, the irony.

By the way, I don't recall seeing a more engrossing initial scene to a film than in The Social Network. The character of Zuckerberg is shown in all his intelligence, bravado, condescending air, and social awkwardness perfectly, all in the span of five minutes. It's a film that's certainly a challenge to make, because we all know where Facebook is today. And to be able to show that growth in those two hours, into what it became from its groundswell, is quite an achievement. My brain is still so fascinated at how this "social media" sprouted, even how that term and the relevance of "status" were birthed.

There is a certain elitism at Harvard, but why shouldn't there be really? We have seen it portrayed in Good Will Hunting and now here. Yet, in addition to the ease with which competitive intelligence is shown on campus, there is also the weight of social relevance in such a setting. I love the line in that opening where Erica says to Mark that "you're going to go thru life thinking girls don't like you because you're a tech geek...that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole." You can be the smartest person around with one of the highest IQs, but without love or someone with whom to share that passion, it's a lonely life. And in the end, the viewer can sense that loneliness Zuckerberg was feeling. Whether he truly feels lonely now is up for debate. After all, he has billions to lock himself in a room.

One cannot view The Social Network without questioning the underlying ethics that are really at the forefront, from a social and business standpoint. There are clear implications for being on the 'wrong' side of ethical rhetoric (seen in the backlash to Zuckerberg's side-by-side female beauty comparisons in his initial web creation 'facesmash' and the legal troubles that burden him in response to his management and ownership decisions regarding Facebook).

Understanding right from wrong shouldn't be a tall order for any Harvard undergrad, yet Zuckerberg seems to take delight in crossing the thresh-hold. He often displays severe ego in his actions with his ex-girlfriend, the Harvard Administrative Board, and eventually the plaintiff's legal team when being sued. He endears himself to no one when he clearly steals original ideas (ConnectU by the Winklevoss twins  and Divya Narendra) and then dilutes the value of the shares owned by Eduardo Saverin, Facebook's co-founder, original CFO, and initial investor and funding source.

Even the failings of Thiel Management (the venture capital firm that provided the first large cash infusion, to provide relevant guidance to Saverin) seem under-handed, along with the actions of Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who slyly cozies himself unto Zuckerberg to gain a sizable share of Facebook against Saverin's instincts. Business Ethics was a critical course for me while studying Finance in college, yet many of the decisions in this film seem completely devoid of them. It amazes me how much personal greed overtakes sound judgment here.

No one has ever debated the merits of Aaron Sorkin as a screenwriter, and here he is truly at his best. Every word seems relevant, the viewer hanging-on to each sentence because it is literally breathing history. As an aside, I wonder if our generation believes it has seen the most amazing growth of technology in our lifetime, or our parents'. After seeing this film, I realize we started our youth with Atari and 'just' the telephone. Now we have computers, instant electronic feedback, high-def TV, cell phones, digital storage. I am amazed, and even moreso at the idea that there is still so much left to create, whether for the good or destruction of humanity.

The Social Network makes 2003 feel like twenty years ago. And sadly, it was only in the last decade. It propels one to think "what did I do before Facebook?" much like "how did I survive without a cell phone?" I don't know if that makes me feel old or afraid that technology is changing so fast that our life will literally be pegged to the invention of certain gadgetry!

Anyway, I wasn't sure David Fincher would be the man for this directorial challenge...yet after seeing it, I realized it made sense. He likes the outsider. He identifies with him. Look at Seven or Fight Club. Here, we have Zuckerberg, that outsider who is neither serial killer nor corporate drone counteracting the capitalization around him, but who is on a social tightrope, tip-toeing forward slowly then sprinting to the safety of a platform.

Once that "launch" button was hit, releasing 'thefacebook' to Harvard then hundreds of other universities, then eventually the world, Zuckerberg was on the inside now. A success, just like Bill Gates, who in a poignant scene parades on a stage as a perfect foil (or complement) to Zuckerberg. Fincher created such a collapsing (yet ever-expanding digital) world for us to see that despite the success of Facebook, Zuckerberg still seemed a loner, seeking that acceptance of Erica in the end, even as a "friend." He’s surrounded by billions of dollars...and no one with whom to share it.

(Note - I found this account on Wikipedia fascinating. It details the illicit behavior of Mark Zuckerberg in his dealings with ConnectU and his apparent theft of original ideas and business practices.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conn