How Should Facebook Feel About “The Social Network”?

August 25, 2010

At this point, it seems unlikely that Mark Zuckerberg will be supporting “The Social Network” by checking in to see the film at a theater on his new Facebook Places service any time soon. There are reports that he and his cohorts at Facebook are upset and that they “saw the movie a while ago, and they do not like it.”

But how should the 26-year-old and his company really be feeling about a film that Peter Travers of Rolling Stone declared “the movie of the year that also brilliantly defines the decade“?

Their decision so far has been to ignore it, with Zuckerberg claiming the “movie is fiction.” But if the film really turns out to be, as Michael Cieply and Miguel Helft of the NY Times reported, “culturally defining, as it aspires to be, in the way of ‘Wall Street’ or ‘The Big Chill,’ ” (or even, say, “Reality Bites”) then would it be best for Facebook to just embrace it, even if they continue to dispute its authenticity? After all, they’ve already acknowledged in a statement that “it’s a sign of Facebook’s impact that we’re the subject of a movie.”

Let’s say this movie does turn out to be a huge box office hit and amazing piece of social commentary as many expect, especially after Scott Foundas’ review. What the hell, let’s say it gets nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. That brings up several thoughts:

  • What does that kind of success do for Facebook, and how should Zuckerberg and Co. be preparing to react?
  • Will the current pay-no-attention-to-that strategy be most effective?
  • Should they be getting their lawyers ready to go to court?
  • Volunteer to attend premieres and accompany director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin in interviews and, perhaps, award shows?
  • And, presumably most important to Zuckerberg, over 500 million people are signed up for Facebook now. Will that number be more or less be this time next year?

With the film set to, as reported in the Times, “portray Facebook as founded on a series of betrayals” and depict Zuckerberg in an unflattering manner, it’s possible that the film could force some to re-evaluate how they use the site and not want to participate any longer. Maybe we’ll see another Quit Facebook Day. It’s also possible that even more people will take notice of the site and figure, “what the hell, it’s getting Oscar nominations, I should probably finally sign up.” I figure the latter. But either way, it’s going to be strange to see a film based on a real cultural phenomenon during its ascent – and see what the film does to it.