Sarah Sands: Zuckerberg is the master of a universe he has invented

Share
Related Topics

For Mark Zuckerberg, the most irritating aspect of The Social Network was the way in which it cast him as a social reject and misogynist; a student who created his own online club, Facebook, because he was a failure with girls.

"They just can't wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things," Zuckerberg said of the film-makers last week. Clearly, there is a cultural chasm between Zuckerberg's world and that of the despised film-makers. They are interested in the traditional ingredients of story telling: character, motive and plot. Zuckerberg is the master of a universe that he has invented. He and his 500 million friends write their own stories, just as they like. Facebook is a gigantic, awesome ego.

The numbers are so enormous, the business value so vast, that it is hard to have a perspective on Facebook. We know it is "cool", "massive" and has changed the way we think and behave, but what is it exactly? Part of the audience reaction to The Social Network is relief. We are back in familiar territory with a recognisably human intelligence, humour and scepticism.

Zuckerberg may not be faithfully represented in the film: in real life, he hung on to his girlfriend and he quoted Homer rather than making bitter and potty-mouthed observations about women. In other ways, he is more curious even than the film suggested. His lack of interest in money is the mark of a genius and also weird. If you are worth a billion, you can surely upgrade from a rented apartment with a mattress on the floor.

Zuckerberg says that Facebook was motivated by a vision of a new and open world. Yet the girl question is at the heart of his business model. I questioned a group of teenage boys who were among the earliest converts to Facebook. Did they feel the tectonic plates of their lives shifting?

Not really, they shrugged. It was just a useful method of tracking girls. If you met someone at a party, you could look her up afterwards and see if she was as fit as you remembered when you were drunk and it was dark, and if she was attached or could you have a crack at her.

We read a great deal about the nobler and warmer functions of Facebook; how grandparents are united with younger generations, how national prejudices are erased by global friendships. Then there are business offshoots that form career-shaping networks. But for the Facebook pioneers, it was all about girls at parties.

The excitement of a social life by other means lies in recognition. Among the thousands of recorded friends, only a hundred or so are of any interest. The other ground breaking asset of Facebook, according to my teenage focus group, was that the website was unusually clear and well designed. Mark Zuckerberg studied computer science at Harvard, and knew what he was doing.

People divide into two camps over Facebook and its impact. The first, the larger, responds with unconditional admiration. Zuckerberg is more revered than most world statesmen. He is a revolutionary, yet, paradoxically, he is very rich. The second camp is made of sniffy diehards who stress that they are far too busy – and by implication, that their lives are miles too interesting – to allow open access.

There is a third position, which is that we don't know, even now, where Facebook is heading. This has been Zuckerberg's claim and that of the film-makers. The Social Network is exactly the right response to Facebook. Zuckerberg is both brilliant and absurd. He is human, after all.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor