The Social Network

This turned out to be a more interesting film than expected. What IS disappointing is the film being viewed independently of what has happened since the founding of Facebook.

Start with knowing that the film is a jumble of fact and fiction. (It seems to be a dogma among directors that the only way to tell a good story is to embellish it with lies.) So when you see it, take away the larger points of the film:

  1. Mark lacks social skill, and tends to think of himself first
  2. Facebook was founded in controversy

The first point is almost a given for college age “computer nerds,” isn’t it? Social skills are precisely that -skills. Since Mark was more focused on programming than socialising, it makes sense for the social skills to lag in development.

That Facebook was founded in controversy is a little more character revealing.

One thrust of the film is that Mark “led his business partners on” for several weeks. They had an idea fleshed out and needed a programmer. Mark was a programmer with a nascent idea. It seemed a perfect match.

It’s unlikely that anyone – not even the principals involved – knows precisely what happened anymore. Just as time heals all wounds, it also blurs recollection. The only thing that seems fairly clear is that while Mark’s business partners were waiting for him to code their site, he spent his time coding The Facebook.

And that’s about the end of the usefulness of the film. There’s lots more amusement and plot, but no substance because we’ll never know what is fact and what’s fiction.

The film pretty much portrays Mark as a jerk. but what has happened since Facebook was founded?

Does Mark’s behaviour over the last few years support that portrayal? Or has he demonstrated a pattern of growth and maturing that puts the film into a different perspective?

Well, in 2008 Facebook changed their terms of service so it looked like they were claiming ownership to all the content on Facebook.

In 2009, the terms were changed in a way that made it seem like they were claiming ownership of content in accounts that are only deactivated rather than deleted.

And in 2010, Facebook apparently eliminated privacy for a day or two by giving large corporations access to Facebook user data. (That little privacy blip plunged Facebook growth from 8 million in May 2010 to just 320,000 in June – with more than 250,000 users quitting the site.)

We can cap all this off with Mark making a statement during an interview that he believes we don’t want complete privacy online.

What does this mean for business owners? Does it really matter whether Mark is “nice?”

After all, there are lots of folks willing to tell you all that matters is he’s successful. He’s making lots of money, and that’s what counts. Who cares that he steps on some toes along the way, right?

I care.

Every leader has a responsibility to lead well. Ford said every industrialist has a responsibility to make the best goods possible, at the lowest cost possible, while paying the highest wages possible. Yes, Ford – the guy who developed the assembly line.

What do you think? Is Mark the sort of fellow you want to do business with? Or does his success justify everything?

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