Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"The Social Network" and Asperger’s Syndrome by Cindy N. Ariel, Ph.D.

Did anyone else who saw The Social Network notice that the character of Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg looks like a classic example of someone with Asperger’s syndrome? The Social Network is a recently released movie about the development and growth of Facebook and centers on a couple of huge lawsuits brought against the main founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It seems that Zuckerberg has made a lot of enemies in growing his social network site.

Researching a little on the internet, I found a good deal of controversy over whether Zuckerberg has AS or not. Many doubters have heated words to say about the possibility of him having Asperger’s syndrome. They see him as being fully conscious and calculating in the degree of human damage he caused. He is clearly viewed by many as a disloyal, cold blooded businessman.

But the guy who plays him in the movie probably displays enough symptoms to meet official diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome. He has a clear obsessive special interest and difficulty focusing on one subject unless it includes that interest (computer programming). He speaks rapidly, and demonstrates odd behavior at times. Socially, his interactions with his closest friend primarily involve his special interest and he doesn’t participate in the parties and celebrations going on around him even to mark major milestones in the growth and progress of his company. Earlier, he seems totally clueless about his own behavior when his girlfriend breaks up with him. His literal honesty during a legal deposition when asked whether he is giving opposing counsel his undivided attention and his self-involved alienation at college also resembles other adults with Asperger’s syndrome. It’s interesting that the guy portraying the developer of the largest social network in the world appears socially inept.

I do not know the real Mark Zuckerberg, and from what I understand, neither the director of this movie nor the actor who played him does either. Besides, whether the real Mark Zuckerberg has AS or not is his own private matter. The point that strikes me as important though is that if you assume that the character in the movie has Asperger’s syndrome, his actions and behavior come across much differently than if you go by the assumption that this guy is an avaricious capitalist. In the lives of Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg, none of us may be affected or really care. But in the lives of the people we care about, especially those with Asperger’s syndrome, perspective can make all the difference.

1 comment:

  1. Many of our most creative minds may also be on the autism spectrum. I do believe that my awareness of spectrum disorder social behaviors caused me to come away with an entirely different understanding than the typical viewer. There are enlightened scientific explanations for what others label, weird, unfriendly, strange, etc. Thirty years ago, I had a child with autism in my Kindergarten class, causing me to become fairly well-versed in autism. My heart was saddened by the world of misunderstanding and downright cruelty, he and his family had to struggle against. Unfortunately, not much has changed on the playgrounds and in school lunchrooms. The problem with bullying has become more insidious, with the advent of technology. Hopefully, with positive media attention, we can shed a light that will embrace compassion and understanding. Bumper Sticker Wisdom: Autism's not contagious, Ignorance is!