Capturing the Facebook Obsession
"Unpleasant personality traits are almost required of young entrepreneurs trying to build something lasting."
The dialogue ends there, but you get the point. Mr. Zuckerberg was exactly right — it was Facebook’s coolness that allowed it to overtake MySpace, which had a huge head start but became less cool with every ad it took. I have no idea if that exchange between the two men took place in real life, but it is one of the truest moments in the movie. By the time Mr. Zuckerberg allowed his once-close friend to be brutally pushed out of Facebook, he had long since outgrown Mr. Saverin as a business strategist. Had Mr. Zuckerberg remained loyal to Mr. Saverin, Facebook would never have become the dominant site it is today.
Which brings me back to Mr. Kirkpatrick. Although he has dozens of legitimate nits to pick with “The Social Network,” his real complaint is something larger. It infuriates him that Mr. Sorkin and Mr. Mezrich have treated Mr. Zuckerberg so shabbily, portraying him as small and petty and boorish instead of as a Great Man. Although “The Facebook Effect” dutifully recounts the litigation that ensued between Mr. Zuckerberg and his antagonists — litigation, I should point out, that netted the Winklevoss twins a reported $65 million and made Mr. Saverin a billionaire — he bends over backward to exonerate his hero.
It is as if Mr. Kirkpatrick can’t accept the notion that someone who creates a great company might also be boorish and arrogant and sometimes even rotten. To him, Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t just a great businessman, he’s also a good guy. “Mark is the most impactful person of his generation,” he told me. “That is what we should be trying to understand: how someone so young could create something so important.”
Yet where is it written that driven entrepreneurs are also good guys? More often than not, they’re anything but. As a human being, Steve Jobs is the very definition of the word “jerk;” yet he’s also the greatest chief executive alive. The young Bill Gates could be obnoxious in the extreme. At the age of 24, Marc Andreessen was so arrogant that he allowed Time magazine to photograph him on its cover sitting on a throne barefoot.
Unpleasant personality traits are almost required of young entrepreneurs trying to build something lasting. It requires tremendous arrogance to believe that their idea is better than anyone else’s. They need to be immensely selfish, putting their fragile creation ahead of everything else, including important relationships. And they have to be ruthless, tossing overboard friends who were once useful and no longer are. Those are the qualities Aaron Sorkin captures so beautifully in “The Social Network.” That is what Mr. Kirkpatrick largely misses in “The Facebook Effect.”
There is much about Mr. Kirkpatrick’s book that is useful in understanding Mr. Zuckerberg and the importance of Facebook as a social phenomenon. I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it. Nor would I discourage anyone from reading “The Accidental Billionaires,” which is a fun, zippy airport read. But for deep, lasting truths?
It’s “The Social Network,” hands down.