The Social Network (2010) ; Directed By: David Fincher

Elizabeth Hagele, Lindsay Geier and Waverly Hurd

November 1, 2016

The Social Network emulates the story of Mark Zuckerberg’s claim to fame as he became the youngest billionaire in the United States. Facebook was originally designed and created for Harvard students, but expanded to a larger audience. As of Winter 2016 Facebook had more than 1.65 billion monthly users. In the spring of 2016 Facebook was named the most popular social networking site in the world based off of the number of accounts in use (Wikipedia). The continuity of Facebook has taken time but in hindsight has become one of the world’s front running social media sites in the world today. Through the evolution of Facebook, we have seen technology determine social change. The characteristics and abilities Facebook possess ultimately changed society member’s lives overnight. Throughout The Social Network directed by David Fincher, we see the accurate portrayal of how Mark Zuckerberg along with many others contributed to the transformation of where Facebook stands today.

In the beginning of the movie, Erica Albright breaks up with Mark Zuckerberg because he is a narcissistic and an insensitive boyfriend. While extremely drunk and upset, Mark starts to create this idea of comparing individuals at Harvard based on their looks. During the scene beginning at 09:00, we see Mark intensely hacking different residence halls and off-campus houses’ computer systems for individual’s identification photographs. The scene continues to transcend into the entrance of partner, Eduardo Saverin who has the key algorithm to making the site become complete and go live to all Harvard students. They sent the “FaceMash” URL to several students and it immediately went viral. It eventually ended up crashing Harvard’s Internet system (12:50-15:40). Harvard instantly tracked down Mark as the culprit for launching the degrading site. The Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler heard about Mark’s “great success” and then proceeded to confront Zuckerberg. They then pitched him their HarvardConnection.com idea that they needed his coding help on.

The idea of the Harvard Connection was to connect with friends similar to other social networking sites such as Friendster or MySpace. Baran described social networking sites to be “websites that function as online communities of users” (Baran, 242). The difference of Harvard Connection was going to be that it was only for elites and could only be accessed with a “Harvard.edu” email address (24:47). According to Baran, the first social networking site was Classmates.com that launched in 1995, followed by many similar sites such as, Friendster and MySpace whose goals were to connect people socially and professionally (Baran, 242). The evolution of Friendster and MySpace recuperates the idea that Facebook was a re-developed idea shaped to form a unique and new media source.The Harvard Connection is no different as Facebook, as both ideas stemmed from building upon past ideas of social media sites. In fact, TheFacebook encompassed similar ideas that Friendster, MySpace, and HarvardConnection had. As Zuckerberg states in the film to the Winklevaaus brothers, “You know you really don’t need a damn forensic team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook” (35:01).

Zuckerberg continued to build upon past ideas and transcend to meet audience members needs by adding a “Relationship Status” area to be published on individual’s profile pages. The relationship status was Zuckerberg’s final addition to TheFacebook before he launched the website. By adding this final element to TheFacebook, Zuckerberg was able to capture the attention of others and was able to show students what they wanted to see (35:24). The nature of technological innovation is demonstrated through these social media websites as their evolvement has progressed over durations of time in continuous and fluid progressions.

Zuckerberg’s idea of TheFacebook argued that society’s individuals drive technology. Baran discusses the role of technological determinism and how technology drives social change (16), however throughout our class discussions we talked about the idea of social determinism. Throughout our class discussions we have learned that “social determinism is the building upon previous technologies as it addresses pre-existing social needs. Society users give a product meaning and may result in unintended consequences” (Kittler). TheFacebook was a new medium of communication that built upon previous technologies and allowed students to publicize their college lifestyles through statuses, connections, pictures, videos, etc. In the film, Zuckerberg says, “I am talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online” (37:00). College students wanted to be able to share with others what they were doing and how their college experience was going.

Zuckerberg’s desire to engage a niche community created TheFacebook ultimately changed how people engaged online. Upon launch, TheFacebook was viewed as a new medium of communication that served as a technological solution or answer to the pre-existing social need of college students. Students had the ability to post their current thoughts, feelings or plans. Baran would describe Facebook as a global village. As it is, “a form of sub-network or sub-culture and as people come to know more about others who were once separated from them by distance, they will form a new, beneficial relationship” (Baran, 232). The industry expanded when the online realm turned into a completely public social networking site available to anyone with an email address. Millions of people were inter-connected by “friending” relatives, friends, coworkers and others to stay connected with.

In 2012, Facebook held 845 billion users, which is more than one third of the world’s entire Internet population (Baran, 242). In the film, Zuckerberg states he is noting Facebook traffic in Bosnia when Marilyn states, “Bosnia? They don’t have roads but they have Facebook” (55:20). At this point of the film, it’s important to note that places such as Bosnia have access to Facebook and interconnectivity. Our world today suggests that it doesn’t matter one’s physical location. Sean Parker even said, “we lived on farms, we lived in cities and now we are going to live on the Internet” (1:48:00). Thanks to Facebook, our lives no longer are determined by our physical location but measured by our access to the Internet.