“I invented Facebook” – three simple words that sum up the whole essence of the film, ‘The Social Network’ (2010). The film, directed by David Fincher, sets out to morph Mark Zuckerberg’s journey of the manifestation of Facebook with all the nitty-gritty details from his personal life and the coding of Facebook to him handling two lawsuits in court.
We are first introduced to Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, when he is seated in a bar having a five-minute interchange with his girlfriend, Erica Albright. Zuckerberg rants on about extraneous topics with the words spewing out of his mouth uncontrollably and with no ounce of deplore. His continuous insults and belittling remarks ultimately results in Erica ending their relationship and telling him off. This interaction spurred Zuckerberg, who had a ‘little’ too much to drink, to take his revenge. With the help of his intoxicated state and his programming skills, he brought down the Harvard University’s network and created a callous website called Facemash to ridicule womankind (Harvard female students) based on their ‘Hot’ status. Little did Mark know that his little ‘revenge’ project would turn into something as big as Facebook.
Facemash brings the spotlight to Mark which alerts the most esteemed and athletic twins of the university, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer). The Winklevosses and their friend, Divya Narendra, are looking to construct a social dating site for Harvard male students. They present the idea to Mark and he agrees to work on the code. But their idea triggers a much greater idea in Mark’s mind; which is Facebook.
Mark decides to partner with his best friend, Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield), who ultimately finances and becomes the co-founder of Facebook; and with that Facebook is created. This leads to the twins and Divya claiming that Mark stole their idea. The accusation against Mark progresses to a lawsuit. As the storyline progresses, it is revealed that Mark has another pending lawsuit filed against him by Eduardo, his “only friend” and business partner who was pushed out of the company by Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
The film being based on true events outlined the concepts of management, leadership, conflict management and, professionalism and ethics accurately. It defined the naked reality of the business world.
Management and Leadership
The film portrays Mark’s character as antisocial, arrogant, deeply insecure, devoid of emotion and as an ‘outcast’. There is an emergence of contrasting leadership qualities between the two main characters; Mark and Eduardo. Plentiful times in the film Mark depicts poor leadership qualities through his actions. In the scene (47:30) where Eduardo finds a letter of cession addressed to Mark, who he questions about the legality of the letter. But Mark believes since the letter was addressed to him, it served no purpose in telling Eduardo about the situation at hand. As a leader, Mark failed to disclose significant legal business information to Eduardo; his business partner and CFO. His mind set of arrogance and status of the creator of Facebook blinded him from thinking about his company and his business partner and financer who deserved to know about the current economic and legal situation of the company. Mark took on this “go with the flow” type of leadership that can and did jeopardize the future of the company and both partners’ financial positions.
“You’re gonna blame me because you were the business head of the company and you made a bad business deal with your own company?” This scene outlines again the negligent leadership of Mark. He fails to disclose information as the founder of the company to his trusted co-founder, Eduardo, that his ownership share would be diluted down to 0.03%; absolutely nothing. By making the above comment, Mark is refusing to accept accountability for his actions and places the blame on his clueless business partner. He failed in the task of management. His actions depict selfishness, lack of planning, poor integrity and poor communication skills.
On the other hand Eduardo depicted contrasting leadership qualities compared to Mark. In two particular instances regarding finances of the company or budget, Eduardo showed leadership by investing the required amount, suggested by Mark, to start and capitalize on the company. In this particular scene, Eduardo is shown to be rational and has great consideration for the future in the pretenses of the meeting with Sean Parker. While Mark shows naivety to the likes-of Sean Parker, Eduardo is thoughtful and questions Sean’s intentions. Eduardo is portrayed as a democratic leader. He continuously tries to provoke active decision-making with Mark and is seen to take full responsibility for his actions. Even with Mark’s complete ignorance of his partner’s ideas and presence, Eduardo honors his business commitment.
The director aims through the contrasting characters and their leadership qualities to convey the reality of corruption and greed evident in the business world.
The film’s storyline is driven by conflict management the minute we were introduced to Mark’s character. The major conflict spots of the film were the conflict between Mark and the Winklevosse twins and Divya, and the conflict between Mark and Eduardo.
Conflict between Mark and, the Winklevosse and Divya
The conflict situation between Mark and, the Winklevosse twins and Divya emerged when Mark ‘stole’ their initial idea of creating a dating website for Harvard male students after they approached Mark and offered him to be a part of the operation, which he immediately agrees too. Mark ultimately transformed their idea into a more commercial idea of Facebook. The Winklevosse twins and Divya decided to sue Mark and filed a lawsuit against him after their calls to him were ignored. The Winklevosse twins and Divya actively communicated in order to solve the conflict, but communication is a two-way street (which requires Mark to communicate as well, which he does not). Mark hopes by ignoring the conflict situation, it will disappear. We are shown snippets of the courtroom histrionics in the film and the cycle of conflict that continues in the courtroom. Mark deflects all questions and attempts of twins’ lawyer who tries to get him to admit that he agreed to create their website. Mark fails to negotiate terms with the Winklevosse twins and Divya, and continues to divert from the stolen idea issue and mentions that it was all his coding and not theirs. His lack of cooperation also leads us to question his denial of their accusation against him. As a result of this conflict situation, Mark has gained a character trait of being untrustworthy.
Conflict between Mark and Eduardo
The conflict between Mark and Eduardo was business related and in terms of friendship. Their business relationship manifested from their friendship, but that soon began to deter.
“I was your only friend”. This statement made by Eduardo in the courtroom, aimed directly at Mark, conveys the anti-climax of their long-lived conflict throughout the film. One of the main reasons for their conflict was due to their conflicting and contrasting personalities. They both came from different backgrounds and had different values and beliefs. We saw that from their interactions as business partners that Mark was definitely not a team player. Mark’s personal greed, hunger for success and his raging insecurity and obsession of being “popular” leads him to sacrificing his friendship with Eduardo. But the question is…”Is that an eligible leader?” In a nutshell, his betrayal and lack of effective conflict resolution strategies leads us to portray him as a ‘Billionaire Judas’.
Yet, with the lack of proper communication skills and traditional leader qualities, Mark proves in the end that Facebook’s success today would not have been achieved without him.
Professionalism and Ethics
The film without a question raises ethical issues such as immaturity, disrespect, betrayal, greediness, intellectual property fraud, and invasion of privacy. The concept of professionalism is depicted on the principle of an individual acting in an ethical manner.
In scene (49:40), Mark stares absent-mindedly out the window, when the Winklevosse twins’ lawyer asks him: “Do you think I deserve it?” referring to Mark’s attention. Mark’s reply comes off as rude, disrespectful and exuding cockiness. Mark’s demeanor in the courtroom is far from professional.
To be a professional person, you need to act in an ethical manner; which Mark has not. Examples of his lack of ethics and professionalism include the fraud of intellectual property in reference to his ‘theft’ of the Winklevosse twins and Divya’s idea (intellectual property).
Another prominent example is Mark invading the privacy of the Harvard female students when he created and launched Facemash.com. His violation of copyrights and the intentional breaching of confidentiality of university security also fall under the list.
Mark’s repetitive immaturity and belittlement of others presented in the courtroom reflects his lack of respect and disregard for the situation at hand (he does not comprehend the degree of legality/seriousness of the situation). His lack of commitment to his business partnership with Eduardo, his greediness and his failure to accept accountability for his actions form the roots for the stem of his betrayal. Mark’s betrayal of both Eduardo and the Winklevosse twins and Divya proves the disloyalty of his character because of his ethical divide.
The film’s tagline, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies” not only defines the overall pretenses of the film but also divulges and exposes Mark’s lack of ethical issues and his concern towards them.