Rarely do I see a film when
it first comes out, but I'm very glad I chose to see The Social Network on its box-office-dominating opening weekend. It was
brilliant-a fantastic script by Aaron Sorkin, skillfully directed by David
Fincher. It tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his
friends and Facebook cofounders, but the film isn't just about Facebook. It
even features several significant religious themes.
Mark is depicted as searching
not for money or fame but for life's elusive joys like friends, respect,
self-worth and social acceptance. One of the films main conflicts-and there are
many-is between Zuckerberg and his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew
Garfield). As Eduardo becomes more popular and connected to the social scene at
Harvard, Mark searches for online notoriety to rival his friend's real-world
success. From the opening scene, Mark is tireless in his search to find his
place in the dog-eat-dog Harvard world. His question is almost a religious one,
an obsession for something greater than himself. Eventually it yields material
results, but not true friendships, social acceptance or respect.
In several scenes, Mark and
the other computer programmers write code for hours on end while wearing
headphones and refusing to interact with anyone or anything outside the
computer. While the point is to connect Facebook friends to one another, the
coding becomes an ecstatic experience that disconnects the programmers almost
totally from the corporeal world. They can make meaning in cyberspace, but the
return to the less ordered real world can be wrenching.
One of the film's main themes
is community-how it is made and how it is torn apart. Mark successfully
constructs a billion-dollar platform to bolster a community online, but he
dismantles the community he enjoys in day-to-day life. The building up and
breaking down of community is, of course, a major religious theme as well.
The Social Network really isn't about Facebook per se. It's about
meaning and relationships, about friend denials and broader searches for
meaning that's more than just virtual.
Adam J. Copeland teaches faith and leadership at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. He has served as pastor of a Presbyterian church and as mission developer of a Lutheran ministry. He blogs at A Wee Blether, part of the CCblogs network.