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Hollywood's Greed Shows in "Social Network"

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Silicon Alley Insider wrote on October 18: "Speaking at Y-combinator event over the weekend, the real Mark Zuckerberg said that the biggest difference between the movie and real life stems from the fact that movie-makers 'can't wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.'"

Zuckerberg's comment reflects a few of the points made by Daniel Pink in his brilliant book Drive: The Surprising Truth About Motivates Us that most normal people are not motivated primarily by money except when they do repetitious, routine tasks, but they are motivated by autonomy (self-direction), mastery (getting really good at something), and purpose (doing something worthwhile).

For those who can't take the time to read Drive, check out this excellent summary of the main points in the book on YouTube by RSAnimate.

Of course, Hollywood and Wall Street types aren't normal people. In these arenas of twisted values, fueled by the most addictive drugs of all - power and money - winning isn't everything, greedy lust for the two-headed devil of power and money is everything.

In "Social Network" Mark Zuckerberg is depicted as a computer programming nerd who is vindictive and greedy - he wants Facebook all for himself and tries to cut out his friend Eduardo Saverin of the vast majority of rightful ownership of Facebook. Zuckerberg is portrayed as duplicitous and greedy by the Hollywood producers, director, and writer of the movie.

This story line is certainly to be expected from Hollywood. In psychology, it isn't called a story line, it's called projection, the tendency of people to project their own negative characteristics on everyone else. The thief thinks everyone is trying to steal from him because that's what he does. Politicians accuse other politicians of lying all the time. Ummm?

So Hollywood can't understand a story of a young software genius (the movie does depict Zuckerberg as a genius) who builds Facebook because he wants to do something cool that will help young people connect and enhance society. Like Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) in "The Princess Bride," I can hear the Hollywood types screaming, "inconceivable!", or repeatinem>g yet again Jack Warner's line, "if you want to give a message, send a telegram."

These greedy, self-absorbed types think the purpose of a making a movie is to make them rich, just like most Wall Street types and media moguls think the purpose of a business is to make a profit. They never read "the father of modern management," Peter Drucker's, piece of wisdom that "There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer."

"Social Network" is based mostly on a sensationalist book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, by Ben Mezrich in which the author takes the side of Eduardo Saverin and makes up a good story.

Respected journalist and FORTUNE magazine senior editor David Kirkpatrick's well-researched book The Facebook Effect portrays Zuckerberg as an idealistic software genius and Saverin as a pampered son of a Brazilian businessman bully of a father. Kirkpatrick's Saverin is not a sympathetic character because he is more interested in making money on Facebook than creating a cool product that has an easy-to-navigate user experience like Zuckerberg wants.

Kirkpatrick's Zuckerberg seems to take a concept from the movies, the iconic "build it and they will come" from "Field of Dreams" (appropriately), while Saverin seem to take the opposite concept from the movies, that "greed is good" from "Wall Street" (appropriately).

Those, like Joe Nocera of the New York Times in his "Talking Business" column, who think that Ben Mezrich's view of human nature is more accurate than David Kirkpatrick's and that Zuckerberg and most human beings can't be motivated by a meaningful purpose and are greedy, should probably look very carefully in the mirror - or perhaps in the eye of a projector.