Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Socially Awkward Network

Facebook, most people I know use it (consistently and obsessively, but enough about me), and if they don’t use it, they most likely have heard about it. So what to do when a juggernaut like Facebook bursts on to the scene, find a way to make more money off of it make a movie about it of course!
The movie is called The Social Network, and it chronicles the creation and subsequent legal battles of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg , co-founder and CEO of Facebook, is played by actor Jessie Eisenberg. The movie does portray Zuckerberg as somewhat of an “asshole” as his girlfriend would say in the movie. Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg as a fast-talking, quick-witted, smart-ass. The Zuckerberg character frequently back-talks to lawyers in legal briefings (he’s a billionaire that runs Facebook, he doesn’t have time for measly million-dollar law-suits), refuses to give straight answers, and even suggests that his girlfriend in the movie couldn’t possibly have homework, she doesn’t even go to Harvard. Zuckerberg even takes jabs at his one and only friend, Eduardo,  in the movie suggesting that the reason his friend got into the prestigious Phoenix club was because of diversity requirements, and not because of legitimate qualities.
Although the movie shows Zuckerberg as insensitive, he blogged about his girlfriend being a bitch and developed a website where female undergrads could be judged based on their hotness, his portrayal is not necessarily negative. My feeling from the movie was that Zuckerberg was simply socially awkward (he created a website to interact with people without actually interacting with him). I the end, it is clear that Zuckerberg has many “Facebook friends” but no real friends. This is most evident when Zuckerberg is sitting alone, Facebook open, and refreshing the page to see if his ex-girlfriend accepts his friend request at the end of the film. Even as a multi-billionaire, Zuckerberg’s  hero, Sean Parker, is gone and owns 7% of his company, and his best and only friend has sued him for millions of dollars. Zuckerberg is portrayed as sad and lonely. I almost felt sorry for him….that is until I remembered that Facebook is worth 25 billion dollars. You can buy friends right? I think they’re something like $100,000 dollars each, potatoes for Zuckerberg.  
The film reveals many dirty details about Facebook like: the site started out of Zuckeberg’s post-break up anger, the site’s creator is kind of a d-bag and thought it would be funny to compare female undergrads to farm animals. I doubt any of this information is going to have a major negative impact on Facebook’s  popularity. If anything, it might even popularize Facebook even more, you know for those people who have been living under a rock for the past six years.
Zuckerberg has responded to his portrayal in The Social Network. The PR Post blog ( noticed four consistent responses to the movie.
From the PR Post blog: The three- part “Blowing it off strategy”:  It’s a movie; it’s fun... I can promise you, this is my life so I know it’s not that dramatic. The last six years have been a lot of coding and focus and hard work, but maybe it would be fun to remember it as partying and all this crazy drama” (comment during Oprah Winfrey’s show).
By this comment on Oprah, he relates to the everyday Joe and Jane (his audience) who make up most of the users of Facebook. He offers a reasonable explanation, it’s a movie, they obviously exaggerated my life to make it interesting. Admitting that he doesn’t remember the last six years as full of partying humbles him as well, good PR for him and Facebook.  
“We build products that 500 million people see… If 5 million people see a movie, it doesn’t really matter that much” (comment from Ben Parr’s interview) from the PR Post blog.
I agree with the PR Post blog that Zuckerberg blows of the movie by making it seem insignificant. He shows that the Facebook movie doesn’t get him down and that he has bigger fish to fry, he’s runs Facebook the biggest social networking sight in the world!
From the PR Post blog: "Zuckerberg also steers the conversation to a safe area by talking about “lots of messages” he has received from people who saw the movie and feel inspired to become entrepreneurs. This gives Zuckerberg room to say something complimentary about the movie and himself."
I agree, by embracing the movie, it’s better PR than scorning and ignoring it.
PR Post Blog also mentioned “ Zuckerberg’s Little League Strategy.” Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah on the day the movie came out to announce the establishment of his foundation and his first gift of $100 million, which was given to the Newark school system. This is what Jim Grunig critically referred to in his classes as the little league strategy, which occurs when an organization looks bad and decides to sponsor the little league team in hopes that this gesture will make up for things.
I think the effectiveness of this donation is mute. I don’t think the movie has caused significant damage to  Zuckerberg’s image plus I applaud Zuckerberg for donating tons of money to a great cause. Oh no, did his attempt to soften his image with this donation work on me?

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