The Social Network and the Symbolic Frame

594 words | 2 page(s)

The Social Network is concerned with the growth of Facebook. The film depicts several of the aspects of the business that enabled it to grow into the enormous success that it is today, while also demonstrating the nature of the characters involved, especially Mark Zuckerberg and his former friend and co-found, Eduardo Saverin. Indeed, one of the film’s key strengths is the manner in which it shows the breakdown of the relationship between these two characters.

Given the heavy emphasis that the film places on the self-image of its characters and on the attempts that they make to control the image of their product, it makes sense to discuss it in relation to what Bolman and Deal (2008) refer to as the “Symbolic Frame.” To begin, a frame is to be understood as a schema that a company employs in order to understand itself, its goals and the most effective way for it to grow and to succeed. In this sense, the symbolic frame should be understood, first and foremost, as a way of thinking that places a significant emphasis on symbols and on their capacity to produce certain effects.

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Bolman and Deal note, for example, that even in a purportedly rational modern society, symbols play an integral role in everyday life, and that they “stimulate energy in moments of triumph and offer solace in times of tribulation” (p. 252). With this in mind, the same authors suggest that the symbolic frame may be understood in relation to a series of assumptions regarding the meaning and import of certain actions. They argue that an organization that operates according to the symbolic frame is one in which events and actions are “often more important for what is expressed than for what is produced,”and that a shared cultural understanding of certain events and symbols is the “glue” that holds such an organization together (p. 253). In this sense, not only do organizations that use the symbolic frame to note the importance of symbols in society in general, but they also rely on such symbols in order to function.

Both of these elements of the symbolic frame may be argued to play an important role in The Social Network. To begin, one key scene in the film involves Zuckerberg and Saverin meeting with Sean Parker, who informs them that, amongst other things, they should remove the “the” from their organization’s name, leaving it simply as “Facebook.” Parker’s role in the film supports the symbolic frame both in terms of the advice he offers and also in terms of reverence that he and Saverin show him as a result of his association with Napster. As such, his own character is itself an example of the power of the symbolic frame. Other scenes in the film demonstrate the symbolic frame by showing the shared cultural interactions of those who work for Facebook, much of which revolves around a combination of the display of superior programming skills and a hedonistic lifestyle. Early in the film, Zuckerberg is shown recruiting someone to the organization based on how well they can program while drinking large amounts of neat spirits, and later, it is shown that many of key developments in terms of the website’s code took place in a pool party atmosphere in California.

In this sense, therefore, The Social Network demonstrates the power of symbols in the lives of those who founded and who ran Facebook, as well as providing a way of understanding how Facebook itself grew to be one of the most important symbols in contemporary society.

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