As dramatized in The Social Network, the story of Facebook's founding is not unlike that of any large corporation — megalomania rewarded, sweethearts trampled, partners buggered. Zuckerberg's real achievement, however, was something more mysterious than a 21st-century MGM or Standard Oil; he manufactured intimacy through the creation of a parallel, personalized internet offering an ongoing second life in a virtual gated community. True to its moment, The Social Network is less interested in mapping this new system of human interaction than psychoanalyzing it through its quintessential user: Zuckerberg.

Timberlake and Eisenberg want you to friend them.
Timberlake and Eisenberg want you to friend them.

Details

The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara, and Justin Timberlake. Directed by David Fincher. Written by Aaron Sorkin. Based on the book by Ben Mezrich. 120 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Like any form of entertainment, Facebook succeeds to the degree with which it compensates people for something missing in their lives — a lost sense of neighborhood or extended family or workplace solidarity. The key insight in The Social Network is that Zuckerberg — not particularly friendly and not at all prone to sharing — created his virtual community for the same reason Kafka's self-starved Hunger Artist found his métier: because there was never any food he liked to eat.

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