faith fridays: mark zuckerberg’s life in light of faith

Last weekend, my husband and I were lured to the movie theatres by a special deal. Marcus was celebrating its 75th anniversary and offering us movie tickets, popcorn (yes, buttered) and pop for only $7.50.

After discussing our options of which movie to watch, we finally settled on one I’ve been hoping to see – The Social Network. Though Troy isn’t a huge fan of Facebook, I saw the potential for the story behind the making of the social networking giant to be interesting, if nothing else.

We both found it fascinating. The story behind the story had our rapt attention through the very end. It was one of those films I continued to think about even days afterward.

But I’m not sure my reasons for being transfixed are the same as the typical movie-goer. For me, the questions that arose during and after the movie centered on faith. It’s become very hard for me not to scrutinize movies, songs and other media from that vantage point. The more I form my conscience in faith, the more my reactions to the outside world are influenced by that wider view.

Aside from a brief hint of Zuckerberg’s Jewish heritage, faith plays no obvious role in the emotion-charged story of how this young college student started Facebook, and what lengths he went to in order to grow the company, in a relatively short time, into what it is today.

More than a tale about how a company got its start, to me this film was about human nature, especially the kinds of things that can drive and tempt us. It was very much about human interactions and relationships, of strength and weakness and how one can look like the other at times. It was about the quest to find meaning in this life.

But within that premise, a problem emerges. There are limits to seeking our ultimate purpose in this world alone. And by the movie’s end, we glimpse that as we watch Zuckerberg sitting alone in a room with a laptop, hoping to hear back on a Facebook friend request after being sued for stealing ideas and making false promises during his hasty rise to the top. We sense that despite his phenomenal success, Zuckerberg does not have it all after all. In fact, he seems quite lacking in the essential human connections one needs to have true and abiding peace.

Nevertheless, I’m interested in his life, and I found myself wondering about his family background. What are his parents like? Did he grow up with siblings? What factors helped nurture his technical genius?

Anyone would be hard-pressed to not be impressed with Zuckerberg’s mind as it was portrayed in the film. What he pulled off was nothing short of astounding. Even without realizing the full implication of what he was undertaking, he helped fill a gap in our society and world; a gap of disconnect that has begun to be filled, even if imperfectly, with Zuckerberg’s contribution known as Facebook.

Through his efforts, Zuckerberg has become the youngest billionaire in the world, and Facebook continues to expand, but at what point will it be enough to satisfy Zuckerberg? At what point will he feel a sense of peace? When you’re at the top of the world at age 26, where is there to go? With this in mind, even while being impressed by Zuckerberg’s brilliance, I sense a steady darkness lurking below the surface of his life.

I can’t deny that Facebook has been mostly a positive force in my own life, that it has added dimensions to my relationships that would not have been possible even five years ago. But I’m also disturbed by the massive amount of power one young person has garnered, and whether he’ll really be able to use it to the greater good. If Zuckerberg isn’t able to acknowledge the source of his talents and gifts at some point, it’s all emptiness.

I cannot judge Zuckerberg’s heart. I don’t know what stirs him from within. But if the movie portrayal of this young man comes close to the truth, I can’t help but be concerned for Zuckerberg. It’s quite possible he’s heading for a fall; if not a financial one then the kind that follows a endless thirst for affirmation that cannot be quenched through worldly means.

Q4U: What worldly things do you see differently through the eyes of faith?