Jose Antonio Vargas: The Social Disconnect -- How Hollywood Misread Facebook
And it's a movie that, at its core, stands on one glaring false premise: Zuckerberg as a flat-eyed, borderline autistic, humorless guy, a consummate outsider who wanted badly to get into one of Harvard's "final" clubs, his considerable coding skills reduced to social awkwardness. In other words, the geek as the "other." The lonely nerd, sitting alone in front of his computer, seeking connection. The friendless Zuckerberg creating Facebook to make friends and get a girl. There's something that feels quite dated and very 1990s about all of this, like the filmmakers never bothered to meet some of the geeksters -- geeks and hipsters -- at Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. who fuel the social media renaissance in Silicon Valley. Zuckerberg is presented as an alien from a faraway computer programming space, instead of a leading member of an entrepreneurial generation who's grown up with the Internet and now tops Vanity Fair's ranking of the New Establishment, ahead of Steve Jobs, the Google guys and Rupert Murdoch. In the film, Zuckerberg's character lacks context. He just is.
Zuckerberg, mind you, is no saint. A string of instant messages he sent while he was in college has been embarrassing and damaging to his reputation. On the whole, his views on privacy and his goal of making the world "a more open place" push way too many buttons to count. But Hollywood's stereotypical portrait of the introverted uber-geek has already gotten some in the tech community -- even those critical of Zuckerberg -- all riled up.
Anil Dash, the blogging pioneer and frequent critic of the Facebook CEO, told me: "The movie is written in the abstract, based on what they feel Facebook, and the social Web, represent. It's exoticism. It's the 1940s, when you had a white actor in yellow-face play a Chinese character, you know? Those foreigners talk like this, and it's why they're inscrutable and evil."
Added Jeff Jarvis, a long-time chronicler of new media and author of What Would Google Do?: "This is all about snobbery, about dismissing all this Internet stuff. The filmmakers didn't give any value to what Zuckerberg made. How can they say that they understand him if they don't understand his creation? It's dismissive of the 500 million or so people who are on Facebook. It's intellectually lazy. It's insulting."