As dramatized in The Social Network, the story of Facebook's founding is not unlike that of any large corporation — megalomania rewarded, sweethearts trampled, partners buggered. Zuckerberg's real achievement, however, was something more mysterious than a 21st-century MGM or Standard Oil; he manufactured intimacy through the creation of a parallel, personalized Internet offering an ongoing second life in a virtual gated community. True to its moment, The Social Network is less interested in mapping this new system of human interaction than psychoanalyzing it through its quintessential user: Zuckerberg.

Like any form of entertainment, Facebook succeeds to the degree in which it compensates people for something missing in their lives — a lost sense of neighborhood or extended family or workplace solidarity. The key insight in The Social Network is that Zuckerberg — not particularly friendly and not at all prone to sharing — created his virtual community for the same reason Kafka's self-starved Hunger Artist found his métier: because there was never any food he liked to eat.

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