Movie Review: The Social Network

By Joel Mayward Posted on October 06 2010

Walking out of the theater this past weekend, I turned to my friend Jon and made an observation: "we may have just watched this year's Best Picture winner." Granted, we still have nearly a quarter of the year left on the calendar, but I would not be surprised if The Social Network turned out to be the best film of the year, as well as my personal favorite. From David Fincher's signature direction, to Aaron Sorkin's brilliant screenplay, to the cinematography, acting, and cultural relevance, the film deservedly draws comparisons to Citizen Kane for its remarkable look at a celebrity's internal motivations behind their rise in society.

That's a lot of near-hyperbole for an opening paragraph of a film review. In writing such statements, I suppose I run the risk of unintentionally harming the audience's experience; either you enter with unrealistically high expectations or with a sense of skepticism. In some ways, I don't care. And while I may look back upon this little tome with regret for putting my foot in my mouth, I choose to move ahead, because the idea in my mind is so powerful that it needs to be unleashed in some form or fashion.

I suppose that's not unlike the dilemma of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network. A young Harvard computer genius (and a bit of a social pariah), Zuckerberg has the idea to create a sort of online college experience, a way for guys and girls to check each other out, befriend each other, seek relationship. It is an idea that could go somewhere, that could bring Zuckerberg both fame and fortune. His best friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), begins to fund the project, and "the facebook" quickly becomes a viral phenomenon. As the social network increases in membership and rivals begin to become more vocal, Zuckerberg begins a spiral into isolation, resulting in the breakdown of nearly every relationship around him. And while my hyperbolic statements won't lead to relational self-destruction, the idea is the same--we've got an idea and we're moving forward.

So what is the driving motivation behind Zuckerberg's creation of a website that connects people? Perhaps it's the value of relationships? Yet Zuckerberg burns nearly every bridge between himself and others. In talking with a fellow audience member afterwards, she wondered aloud if Zuckerberg could have some form of autism--he's cognitively brilliant but socially abrasive. Perhaps the motive is business? Zuckerberg has become the youngest billionaire on the planet through his entrepreneurial efforts. Yet Eduardo even agrees that Mark isn't in it for the money, and his flippant stance with his lawyers prove it. There's something more going on here. Without wanting to spoil the film, I wonder if the central desire behind Facebook is the desire to be known.

This desire goes beyond just relational connections; it places existential meaning in popularity, in fame, in being considered cool. When I am known, it proves that I do, in fact, exist; it reveals that I have some level of impact in the lives of people around me. When I am recognized, there is something deep within that responds with affirmation and joy. I believe this desire is inherently good, that it stems from humanity's creation in the Garden and our sense of being found in being known by God. When the desire is distorted, we become people who are willing to actually destroy relationship in order to be known. It seems counterintuitive, but I suppose sin has that affect. By the conclusion of the film, Zuckerberg is definitely known--he has achieved a level of cool--but he is alone. And despite our culture's abundance of ways to be known through technology, the longing for true relationship is as strong as ever. We can be both incredibly connected and deeply isolated.

For us in youth ministry, we cannot define knowing our students by simply being their Facebook friends. Nor can we consider ourselves known by having shallow relationships with a few folks in our church. We know what it feels to be lonely while being surrounded, and we must be careful to pursue authentic community beyond our technology. Find a few key trusted people to walk through life together; don't pull a Zuckerberg. We also have to check our motives--am I striving to be cool, to be relevant to teens, to achieve a level of recognition through my ministry? I love NYWC's theme this year: Known. Our main recognition cannot come through our technology or our desire to be cool; we have to see ourselves as fully known by God and allow ourselves to thus fully know others.

There is a divine Social Network that transcends our technology, a network with three eternal members living in perfect love. This network invites us in, calls us friend, and exhorts us to extend its communal love to those around us. If I have to make hyperbolic statements about any social network, I choose to trust the one that knows me and is made known through Christ.


Picture of Gus

From Gus on October 06, 2010

After seeing this movie I can completely agree with Joel and his thoughts on wanting to be know and accepted in various forms. For mark it was wanting to be know by the elite clubs on Harvard campus. This I feel is a deep desire in an Jr. higher and high school student. The movie was well done and I enjoyed it as well and would not be surprised if it dis get a best picture nod or even won. Good review Joel and since I am currently sitting behind you as I read and writing this I feel I must congratulate by perhaps licking your neck since I am so close to.

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From larry on October 07, 2010

I guess I am a little confused. In reading the reviews of this movie I find that it is full of stuff that is not appropriate. “f’“words and other strong profanity. Taking our God’s name in vain more than once. Plus other themes and situations that we continually warn our students about from the Word. I don’t live in a bubble, but is this the type of movie/entertainment we really want to be endorsing just because it hits on a topic that our students are involved in. I believe there are other avenues to get our points across and to help our students mature in their personal relationships with Christ.

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From Pastor D on October 10, 2010

Hmm….good point. I know as a youth pastor I continually have to ask myself if what i’m doing/listening to/watching is something that I want my youth group doing/listening to/watching because I have come to realize that youth do things they see us do because that means to them that it is ok. Sometimes we need to be extra careful. BUT, I have not seen the movie yet so I cannot comment on that.

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From Bro R on October 13, 2010

The movie story line is mostly made up; it’s a lie and you’re calling it the picture of the year?

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From Warren on October 27, 2010

I have to agree with Larry on this.  I have read the reviews of this film on and and both say the movie has several sexual situations, multiple uses of curse words including taking God’s name in vain, and drug and alcohol use.  I understand those things happen in the “real” world, and that my students hear and see some of these things everyday - honestly, some of them probably find themselves in those situations or use those words.  However, I’m not called to move the line of right and wrong as they drift further and further.  I’m called to maintain a clear, unmovable standard based solely on
God’s Word and the principles in it.  I can’t find a single thing in there that ok’s what this film contains.  Philippians 4:8 is the guide in these types of matters, and no matter how popular something is, if it can’t pass the 4:8 test then I can’t put it in front of my students.  Social network doesn’t pass the test!

Picture of The Chuck

From The Chuck on November 11, 2010

Larry and Warren-

Here’s an idea…

Rather than put so called “innapropriate” situations in front our youth in a way that will be easy to discuss, and teach them what’s right and wrong in EVERYDAY life, let’s just slap some blinders on them and tell them to avoid anything we find innapropriate.  That way they won’t know what to do in uncomfortable situations and…  Oh wait, this is a TERRIBLE idea.

Jesus put himself in situations with people that HIS religious leaders said were innapropriate.  I don’t care how good you think you are at bringing teenagers closer christ, at some point in daily life (more often than you think) they will come into contact with Bad language, sexual themes, violance… the list can go on and on.  Why not talk to them about it and develope a better understanding about these things instead of keeping the youth of the church infants in their faith?

This was a great movie, no doubt about it.  Yes, We know it isn’t entirely tru, and that it has some bad lanuage, and sexual themes, SO WHAT?! 

As for the movie of the year?  That goes to Inception hands down.  I enjoyed the article,


Picture of Warren

From Warren on November 13, 2010

The Chuck,

Thanks for the comments.  I really appreciate you chiming in.  I don’t claim to have my own walk with Christ all figured out, much less that of my students.  However, I think I said in my comment on the movie, I knew my students faced those things every day, and in fact, some of them participated in them.  I don’t have my head in the sand on these issues, but that really isn’t the question here.  The question is can I, as a student pastor, intentionally place something in front of my kids that shows them these things.  Can’t we talk about sexual situations, filthy language, and drugs and alcohol use without seeing it in a movie that I told them to go see?  Jesus did place himself in many situations with people in “inappropriate” situations, and I don’t ever want you or anyone else to think I don’t want my students being Jesus at school, work, or in their other activities.  I know it helps to use the tools available to us, and media is a fantastic tool.  However, I can’t endorse watching something that doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test.  I don’t watch them in my home and won’t tell my students to watch them in theirs.  I guess my point is, where do you draw the line.  If Social Network is ok and a great way to talk about certain issues, then is porn ok to use as springboard into sexual talks?  I know that’s not what you meant, but where is the line?

If we don’t have absolute standards for our students to see, who will?

Thanks again.


Picture of Kim Glenn

From Kim Glenn on February 08, 2011

Dear Warren,

I appreciate that you have a personal philosophy and stick to it. But let’s consider the implications of it. The kids know that anything that doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test is off your list. How will they feel about talking to you if they do happen to wander across an incident that is not Christlike or, worse, become involved in one?

I think they need to know that nothing is off limits for you to talk with them about. And that making mistakes, while painful for all involved, is part of being human. What is ultimately important is what we learn from those mistakes and the mistakes of others.

While your head may not be in the sand, I fear that you are putting up walls where there need to be open doors.

May God bless you for caring about the kids.



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From EffieVincenzo on November 12, 2011

Hi all members -  I’m a newly registered member on this messageboard and I reckon I should say a few things about myself. First off, I’m 21 years old, male, and I study italian at my college. I certainly hope chatting with you folks. Goodbye for now

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