With Mark Zuckerberg contemplating a presidential run, let's take a minute to reflect on his achievements.
You might think back to The Social Network, a movie that rates 96% on the Tomatometer (the Wikipedians' standard of quality).
Critic Michael Atkinson was one of the few naysayers to challenge the outpouring of accolades for the film back in 2010. In In These Times he wrote:
The narrative of the film is, in outline, drab and inconsequential: college squabbles, modest programming achievements, money, betrayals, lawsuits. If the entity at the center of the cyclone weren’t Facebook, it would barely justify a TV drama’s single episode, regardless of how many thorny zingers Aaron Sorkin stuffed into his screenplay. But it is. And how familiar we all are with Facebook by now is the film’s raison d’être -- its extra-cinematic fuel.
The boilerplate cant regarding Facebook in the media posits the site as having changed our lives. But has it? How is your life significantly different due to Mark Zuckerberg’s contraption? Is it more than a monstrous distraction? You should clock yourself on an average day, and see how many minutes you waste futzing with Zuckerberg’s masterpiece.
More than a time-suck, Facebook has the express intention to propagate social adhesion (something the movie’s Zuckerberg ironically lacks any capacity for). Yet instead it erects an artificial public simulacra of human contact. Since you’ve used it, you know that its potential for alleviating genuine loneliness, fostering a real sense of community and retaining bygone friendships is minimal and possibly even counteractive. In the medium run, Facebook may well depress the emotional engagement and opportunities needed for live relationships, and foster the social atomization it purports to remedy. Substituting for the real thing may well be part of the Facebook business plan by now -- the real Mark Zuckerberg would surely be chagrined if his 500 million customers were to suddenly defect in favor of real meetings, real conversations, real intercourse. If Facebook is the future, it’s dystopian. It’s built around a voluntary form of social control that would’ve astonished George Orwell.
So negative! Atkinson must not want to be "liked."
Update: London Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism:
Jesse Eisenberg’s brilliant [wince --TM] portrait of Zuckerberg in The Social Network is misleading, as Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook manager, argues in Chaos Monkeys, his entertainingly caustic book about his time at the company. The movie Zuckerberg is a highly credible character, a computer genius located somewhere on the autistic spectrum with minimal to non-existent social skills.
But that’s not what the man is really like. In real life, Zuckerberg was studying for a degree with a double concentration in computer science and – this is the part people tend to forget – psychology. People on the spectrum have a limited sense of how other people’s minds work; autists, it has been said, lack a "theory of mind." Zuckerberg, not so much. He (Zuck) is very well aware of how people’s minds work and in particular of the social dynamics of popularity and status.