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As technology develops, our world becomes a much simpler, more convenient place to live in. We send messages with the click of a button, we talk with family members half way around the room with the simple click of a few keys, and we write letters over e-mail, sending them off to arrive in our pen pal’s inbox within a few seconds. Communication between people has never been so immediate, so quick, and so easy as it is today. Ironically, the ease of communication between people has, arguably, lead to a lack of disconnect as well. Experts argue tweeting each other, Facebook messaging, or Google emailing harms our social interactions and erodes our ability to understand each other face to face. After taking this communications class and watching The Social Network, I discovered various ways in which the main character, Mark Zuckerberg, fails to communicate and understand his peers.
The first example of miscommunication comes early within the film between the protagonist, Mark Zuckerberg, and his girlfriend at the time Erica Albright. As I watched the movie, I initially assumed Mark and Erica to be on a date and not in a long-term relationship. Though, as the their conversation unfolds, the audience not only learns about Mark’s lack of communication skills, but that Erica is, in fact, his girlfriend. While Mark spoke, I noted that he did so with ease, jumping from subject to subject and back to old topics. However, I also noted how this can be extremely confusing for many people, as we see in Erica’s flummoxed expression. This scene is just the tip of the iceberg of Mark’s lacking communication skills. Not only does he fail to communication smoothly with his a girlfriend, someone he presumably has known for months, but he fails to read her facial expressions and body language as well, another important part of communication and interaction. As I observed their conversation, I could easily tell and interpret the points where Erica was upset by Mark’s condescending words. For example, when he mocked her Boston University education or when he insisted she would not meet the people he introduced her to on her own because she just did not belong in that crowd, like Mark believed he did. Furthermore, I found it interesting that Mark was so out of touch with not just his girlfriend’s thoughts and feelings, but just people in general. I thought this was an important scene in the movie to address because it really exemplified Mark’s self centered attitude, his lack of connection to people, and also highlighted the way he operates above the normal level of human thinking.
The next example of lack of communication I believe is important was Mark’s e-mail exchanges between Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra. After Mark angrily created his website Facemash to get back at Erica for leaving him, he receives extreme amounts of attention from his fellow students which was mostly negative attention. However, Cameron, Tyler, and Divya, upperclassmen attending Harvard, discover Mark through their student newspaper. The group approaches Mark about helping to build a website they had been working on for the past few months entitled Harvard Connection. With little to no hesitation, Mark agrees and begins to work on the website.
However, we discover Mark is working on a website, but it is not Harvard Connection. As we watch Mark work tirelessly upon his own, presumably better website, we also see him exchanging e-mails back and forth with Divya. Mark creates endless excuses, whether it attending class, eating with his parents, or requiring more time, in an effort to avoid the trio. On page 121, our textbook states, “…our e-mails, text messages, tweets, and wall postings lack the nonverbal cues and hints that we provide in face-to-face conversation.” By using e-mails, Mark easily leads on the Trio, allowing them to believe Mark is working on their website. Although Mark purposely misleads them, there is a chance the Trio could have picked up on Mark’s lack of interest in their website and lies had they made their exchanges face-to-face, rather than over e-mail. In addition, this time the Trio wastes waiting for Mark ends up costing them, as Mark is able to create the first, exclusive social networking site.
This is also an important example of lack of communication on Mark’s part because as the movie develops, we see his excuses come back to haunt him in the lawsuit brought against him. In addition, Mark makes it clear that from the beginning he, in his own mind, had no intention of ever working on Harvard Connection, yet he promised the trio he would. This again shows Mark lack of not only communication, but also consideration for those around him. Despite the fact that I did not particularly like Cameron, Tyler, or Divya, I felt that they were entitled to an explanation from Mark, especially after he promised to help them. It also shows Mark’s selfishness, again, as he not only leads the group on to believe he is working on their website, but he basically takes their idea as well.
Later on in the film, after Mark has put TheFacebook.com online and it has grew to encompass the student bodies of many Ivy League schools, do we see another important example of miscommunication. At the beginning of the film, when Mark and Eduardo set out to create TheFacebook, Mark explicitly states that profits or earnings of any kind would be split 70/30. Respectively, Mark would receive 70, while Eduardo received 30. This proposition was one Eduardo agreed to happily. However, we again see Mark’s selfishness arise later on in the movie when Facebook receives $500,000 from an investor. Previously, Eduardo had become upset with Mark allowing Sean Parker, who co-founded another popular website, to make business decisions considering that was Eduardo’s job. In retaliation, Eduardo froze the accounts Facebook used to keep running. However, upon learning about the money, Eduardo unfreezes the accounts and everything seems to be back to normal. This, sadly, is not the case. We find that with the investment, Eduardo’s earnings go from 30% to a meagerly 0.03%.
This situation could have been dealt in a number of ways in order to avoid the lawsuit Eduardo eventually brings against Mark. First, Mark could have respected the fact that without Eduardo, they would not be a Facebook. However, by this point in the movie the audience has had plenty of time to realize how arrogant and entitled Mark can be. In addition, Eduardo could have dealt with the discovery in a number of ways, but chose anger and confrontation to be the first. Overall, I felt this point in the movie all leads back to Mark’s lack of communication that we see littered throughout the movie. He not only does not try to communication, but he does not care to, either. He barely makes an effort to understand Erica, to speak normally with the trio, or to inform Eduardo, his best friend and business partner, of the routes he plans to take with their business. His extreme selfishness, absence of empathy, and inability to sympathize does not help this communication, either. We see numerous examples throughout the movie of Mark not only assuming, but expecting those around him to agree or be okay with his words, suggestions, and actions. I cannot recall once in the movie where I found Mark to attempt to be empathetic towards one person. Rather, I found him to be more expecting of people to be empathetic to him. Lastly, the only time I found him to be sympathetic was towards himself at the beginning of the movie after he is shunned for creating a website aimed to lower girl’s self-esteems and entertain boy’s hormones.
In addition to Eduardo’s lawsuit, Mark also faces a lawsuit from the Trio accusing him of stealing their intellectual property. There is a specific scene within the movie where Mark sits at the deposition, but his mind focuses elsewhere. As the attorney asks him where his focus is, Mark answers: “…the rest of my mind is at the office’s of Facebook where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room including, and especially your clients [the Trio], are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.” This statement appeals to ethos. Our textbook defines ethos as, “a form of rhetorical proof that appeals to ethics and concerns the qualifications and personality of the speaker,” (pg. G6). By asserting his intellectual superiority over the Trio, and basically the entire room, Mark sets out to show that, with his vast knowledge of all things computers, he is the sole creator of Facebook and not one of the Trio could have done what he did by himself.
The Social Network sets out to document one of the most influential creations of our time: Facebook. No matter who one speaks to, regardless of their social class, their religion, their race, their sexuality, their political party, and more, most people have heard of, or even have their own, Facebook. At its initial creation Facebook worked to establish exclusivity, but now, in 2014, it is just the opposite. The website spans across the world, to every country that allows its citizens access to it and connects us together. Ironically, the website that set out to make communication more convenient is often cited as the reason human interaction is dwindling. Even more ironic, the person who created Facebook, as portrayed in the movie, seems to lack the basic understanding of human interaction and communication. Mark Zuckerberg literally has the communication skill, as well as personality, of a five year old. He is incredibly entitled, expecting, and blind to the emotions, opinions, and even words of those around him. I found his character to be extremely deplorable from the first scene and my opinion only worsened as the movie developed. Regardless, from Mark I observed endless forms of his lacking communication skills, all which, I believe, resulted in his many lawsuits. Overall, I enjoyed the movie of The Social Network because it explored a concept I was familiar with, while I analyzed the movie for a concept I am studying: communication.
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