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The Social Network is a film which portrays Mark Zuckerberg’s life as he creates Facebook and the subsequent lawsuits which followed.  Zuckerberg’s character is portrayed as someone who has issues with social interaction which raises questions about whether he has Aspergers syndrome.

Image: angus mcdiarmid

The portrayal of the main character is the reason viewers are so drawn in, Zuckerberg has dismissed the film as “fiction” so when I refer to Zuckerberg I will be referring to the character in the film and not the actual person.  The film deals with a real life issue as many have suggested Zuckerberg’s character is on the autism spectrum.

And there are numerous reasons for this suggestion.  Throughout the film the character doesn’t make eye contact, in fact the character is usually preoccupied in something and sees no reason to leave the activity to look at someone.  He frequently looks out the window and in one instant comments on the weather.

His body position is often inappropriate for a social interaction, despite being in a court room the character continuously slouches in his chair.

With regards to peer relationships Zuckerberg is depicted as somebody with only one true friend, despite the importance of maintaining this friendship the character frequently lacks the ability to consider the effect of his behaviour.

For instants Zuckerberg sees no reason not to decrease his friend’s share in Facebook from 30% down to 0.3%.

Lacking emotional reciprocity

He also lacks emotional reciprocity in relationships, the movie starts with his girlfriend breaking up with him after he says she doesn’t need to study due to the school she goes to and then insults her by saying he could introduce her to people she would otherwise not meet.

The character then has two opportunities to rectify his behaviour, firstly immediately after the event, instead he writes an offensive blog about her.  And secondly on a chance meeting with her sometime after where he completely lacks the ability to apologise for his actions and instead tells her about the website he’s making.

Zuckerberg is also not capable of sharing enjoyment, he arrives at a party not to be with his friend but to tell him about his idea and then leaves stating that a looped video of Niagara Falls is distracting him.

The character can become easily preoccupied this is clear through his ability to “wire in” a concept Zuckerberg created where he is so involved with computer coding that he is oblivious to that happening in his surroundings.

Despite the many reasons for believing the character has Aspergers there are many to suggest he does not.  He creates social situations on his level, for instants a drinking game of computer coding and taking shots.

Emotional awareness

And in a single, all-encompassing moment the character shows a great deal of emotional awareness when he finally adds his exgirlfriend to facebook.  On a number of occasions throughout the film it is clear that he has never forgotten her and in this scene viewers are lead to believe the character is sorry for his behaviour.

Similarly some of the character’s interactions with his best friend suggest that he is emotionally aware of his actions on a number of occasions, such as in a scene where he tells his friend he doesn’t want him to get left behind.

Whether or not the character is meant to have Aspergers it’s clear the film has gone to a great deal of effort to highlight the character’s difficulty in social situations, in doing so it has done a fantastic job of emphasising an important issue through mainstream media.

Intrigued? Well to read my review of the film click here.

Image: angus mcdiarmid