As is being reported across the entire internet, but initially by the New York Times, employees of the social network Facebook spent their Friday night spread out across two theaters in Mountain View, watching The Social Network, the movie about Facebook. The group, which gifted the local Century 16 with their presence, may or may not have (but probably) included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who despite saying he would not see the “fictional” film, would have been going for the second time. In all, Zuckerberg could not be handling the press better; he’s coming out ahead in every direction.
Facebook confirmed the field trip:
“To celebrate a period of intense activity at Facebook, we decided to go to the movies,” a spokesman, Larry Yu, wrote. “We thought this particular movie might be amusing.”
It’s all part of a stellar plan. Instead of whining, throwing a temper tantrum or even getting litigious, Zuckerberg has sat back and let others do the defending. Both The Daily Beast and Slate have articles separating fact from fiction in the film, with many more doubtlessly to come. For those viewers who won’t seek the truth, Zuckerberg appears, as the movie posters boast, both “genius” and “punk,” with even his betrayals coming with wit too sharp to stay mad at. “If you were the ones who invented Facebook, you would’ve invented Facebook,” he quips, in summary.
Meanwhile, the debauchery is glorifying, especially for the film’s target audience (meaning teenagers, not the also arguable Everyone). In the words of one friend (and aspiring tech entrepreneur), “If Almost Famous spawned a generation of aspirational music journalists, The Social Network will spawn a generation of aspirational hackers.” Even including personal dramas, it’s rock star stuff.
Any deep takes by (brilliant) old men — Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig in The New Republic or blogfather Jeff Jarvis — that claim the movie misses the point(s) are themselves missing one point by overlooking superficiality. While these takes are pushing an important dialog forward, they overlook the gaze of an every day audience, something the real Facebook, in their handling of the film, clearly has not. If there’s one thing the movie taught on a very basic level, it’s how much “cool” matters to everyone, but especially the 17-25 crowd. For Zuckerberg to allow his company to handle it all with humor, and for Zuckerberg’s own response to be indirect, but carefully leaked to the media, is PR perfection. It’s not only “cool,” but it’s also, as Facebook’s core user base would understand, a close cousin to cool — it’s “chill.”
There really should have never been a question about how Zuckerberg was going to field this. Apart from being legendarily savvy, there were also hints that he would approach the situation with the necessary levity. For instance, when press first ramped up for the film, his younger sister Arielle, on her personal and eponymous blog, had a take, too, writing, “My version of The Social Network movie poster,” and including this image:
Irreverent, but lighthearted is never a bad look. The “fuck you flip-flops” were not a fluke.