Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Accidental Billionaires

The Founding of Facebook: a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal
by Ben Mezrich

I guess I'm on a bit of a nonfiction kick this summer, which almost never happens.

I thought it might be interesting to read about the two guys who started Facebook. It's amazing how it's become such a phenomenon. I mean, I have a Facebook application on my phone; I never have to be without Facebook access. Crazy, right? When you think about it. What I think is even greater, is that it was created by two college geeks...who just wanted to meet girls. Classic. This book made me wish I were a genius with computers and could create something marketable. Instead I'm good at...reading...and singing. Not exactly marketable skills. But that's beside the point. This book also made me wish that Facebook was more like the way it was when it started. More exclusive. As soon as Facebook opened up to everyone, it started to loose its appeal. And now it has all those stupid quizzes and applications and you're bombarded with emails and notices and crap about these little things that do nothing but take up your time when what you could be doing is reading a book instead of staring and mindlessly clicking at your computer screen. ...Sorry. I spend too much time on Facebook, and I miss the way it used to be. Reading this book, about how simple and sleek Facebook used to be, I was moved to clean up my own Facebook page. A kind of modern spring cleaning. And I feel better for it.

Anyway, I found this book incredibly interesting. It makes me glad I never wanted to become a business major. Business is brutal. And there is so much emphasis in this book about how things weren't personal, "it was business," or that whatever was done was done "for the best of the company." But those are justifications that don't stand up when you really look closely at things. If I were Sean Parker, I would have been painfully frustrated and given up on Silicon Valley altogether. I suppose that says a lot about his character - and about mine...

The author does have a tendency towards the overly verbose. The majority of the chapters begin as jarringly poetic and flowery, which is especially unexpected considering what the book is about. It's out of place and almost laughable.

The one problem I found with the book, is that a lot of it is hypothetical. Many of the episodes began with phrases like, "we can imagine him..." So, I guess that makes the book less reliable, in a sense. But, I read it for the story, not for a biographical account, per se.

"Accidental Billionaires" is a great book, and a great lesson about dreams, reality and the loss of innocence. I suppose everyone has that one particular moment in their life when they become abruptly disillusioned and lose their sense of innocence, regarding "the real world." I don't believe I've had my big "ah-ha!" moment yet, but I can say that after reading what the Facebook developers, partners, and oppositions went through, I'm not looking forward to it.

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