The Facebook Movie

I really enjoyed The Social Network, although I doubt it had much connection to the real people involved. I don’t doubt the events as such, but I doubt the interpretation.

I noticed one thing in particular. One of the motivations of the Mark Zuckerberg character was that he really wanted to get into a Finals Club. But the Finals Clubs are essentially an archaic holdout of aristocratic WASP privilege. I didn’t attend Harvard, but I did attend an Ivy League school with similar organizations. They were not taken particularly seriously by anybody I knew, except perhaps by those whose parents had belonged to one (and those people were pretty much all accepted). This is true even though I knew people who were accepted.

It’s very difficult to imagine somebody obsessing about getting into one. It’s particularly difficult to imagine that from somebody writing web programs. The path to fame and riches in the computer world is through what you do, not who you know. The Finals Clubs are naturally inclined toward the people who are going to become lawyers and politicians. Why would somebody like Zuckerberg care about a Finals Club?

Of course people’s motivations are mysterious. Zuckerberg did go to Phillips Exeter, an elite private prep school, and he could have absorbed some sort of Finals Club ethos there. Still, Zuckerberg has said publically that he was not interested in joining a Finals Club, and I’m inclined to take him at his word.

1 Comment »

  1. rsc said,

    October 12, 2010 @ 9:38 pm

    I was at Harvard from 1997-2001, a few years before Zuckerberg was.

    I remember quite a few of the people in my freshman dorm, including one of my roommates, trying to get into Final Clubs that year. By the end of the year, after most had not succeeded, I think not many people cared anymore, but when you’re starting off in an unfamiliar environment it’s easy to see how something like that would seem like something important to do. I haven’t seen the movie yet but if it was depicting that in freshman year as opposed to later I think it would have more credibility.

    In that 1997-2001 time frame, there were a large number of computer science students who were only interested in startups, day trading, hedge funds, and the other get rich quick promises of the .com boom. I avoided the Harvard Computer Society because it seemed to be filled with such students, but I can easily imagine some of them being interested in the kind of connections you’d get from being in a Final Club.

    It may well be that the movie is inventing a story, but it’s also easy to forget that not all the people in computing are here because they like writing code.

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