Opinion: A decade later, “The Social Network” feels prophetic

Raghav Raj | Staff Writer

When ‘The Social Network’ hit theaters in October of 2010, it felt like a provocation.

It was daring enough to try elevating the origin story behind Facebook and its coldly brilliant founder Mark Zuckerberg into a biographical drama, especially while the company was still marching its way into internet ubiquity as the new decade dawned. Crafting the story into a borderline-Shakespearean morality play, on the other hand, was a decision that still feels as profoundly inspired as it does insane.

Maybe ten years ago, you could’ve made an argument for the film as an exercise in melodrama. David Fincher’s direction feels remarkably, absurdly precise in how he’s able to follow the pacing of a scene with his camera work, even when the scene in question takes place in the confines of a boardroom. As always, there’s the distinct rhythmic flashiness in dialogue that’s become second nature to Aaron Sorkin screenplays, filling even the most banal of interactions with whip-smart retorts and dizzying verbal misdirections. And then there’s the score from Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, which is jarringly ominous at every turn, even when the buzzing synths and thumping drum machines are humming softly in the background. 

All these moving parts serve to bring a simmering tension to the film, transforming the story of a few college kids making a website into a meditation on the profoundly sinister nature of power. In the context of Facebook in 2010, that may have seemed somewhat extreme given the website’s perception as an innocuous way to remain in touch with friends and family.

A decade down the line, however, it almost feels quaint.

Facebook, for all intents and purposes, is a comically evil corporation, one that’s constantly finding new, grotesquely unethical ways to manipulate user information. It’s been caught with data harvesting third parties like Cambridge-Analytica, and it’s also faced scrutiny for algorithms guiding fake-news into some of the more unhinged corners of the internet, filled with violent extremists (For what it’s worth, Facebook announced on Oct. 8 that it’d expand its ban on Groups and Pages that reference QAnon).

The larger implications of Facebook’s ubiquity on a global scale feel even more unsettling. There’s the company’s internet.org project to bring internet to poor communities in places like India, which seemed nice until the realization set in that Facebook was effectively using its status as an internet service provider to monopolize the market and stifle out any non-affiliated web traffic in the area.

From there, it gets truly horrific. In 2018, as a report from the New York Times’ Paul Mozer explains, misinformation and propaganda on Facebook was a vital tool used by military personnel in Myanmar to propogate ongoing genocide against the majority-Muslim Rohingya people. By the time Facebook bothered to address the abuses in August that year, 700,000 Rohingya had fled the country, “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” as UN officials would call it.

With all this in mind, watching ‘The Social Network’ a decade down the line feels downright prophetic. In rejecting the idea of Facebook as a mere way to connect with people, the film saw Facebook as the ruthless enterprise it was. The site, along with its heartless genius of a creator, remains an unstoppable force, plowing forward towards total world domination without a care for the means it took to get there. A decade ago.