What was it like to be Mark Zuckerberg’s classmate? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.
Think of it this way.
Your sophomore year you meet someone who lacks facial expressions and any notion of professionalism, but otherwise they seem pretty interesting. You end up in a small art class together. This person praises your artistic ability, claims that you’re one of the best artists they’ve ever seen–one of the top three in the world even–only to say in the next breath that their next piece will look exactly like yours, and they just want you to know that. A few months later you learn that this person’s art piece, which looks exactly like yours, and even has the same title, sells at an auction for $12 million. Do you feel happy for your friend, or sad and confused that your friend didn’t even tell you about the auction, and then made $12 million based on your work?
The friend’s painting gets more popular. Everyone wants to have one in their living room for themselves. You decide not to make one stupid painting the focus of your life–since there’s far more to life than one painting. But then the newspapers start hyping it up, and it gets resold a few times, until it’s worth $100 million. You aren’t talking to your friend much anymore, and suddenly out of the 500 people you’ve met at Harvard, this one person is the only person anyone cares about because they have so much money. Many of those 500 start working for him. You stop talking to those people.
Being a constructive person, you decide to write a book, the true story of how this painting came to be. But nobody cares, because you don’t have $100 million–after all, you didn’t paint that painting–and so no one will publish the book. You try to publish it yourself anyway, but can’t advertise it because apparently, much to your surprise, you no longer have the right to use the word “painting.” So you petition to cancel “The Painting” trademark, which it seems unbelievable was even granted in the first place. You end up with a settlement that the major newspaper refuses to publish an article about because still no one cares; now the painting is worth $1 billion. (And rumor has it that the painting was stolen from someone! Or multiple people!)
A blockbuster movie comes out about the painting. The moral of the movie is that great artists steal, but deep down inside they’re just lonely people who mean well. The movie doesn’t cover most of the material correctly, and you’re not even in it, because you didn’t want to aid in your own character assassination, so the producers just cut you out entirely. Now you’re angry, so you finally sue someone in court for real: the producers, who get a team of eight lawyers to convince the same federal judge who is already sick of hearing about this painting from a previous case that no one really knows what a “nonfiction” book is anyway–it could be anything! So the movie is clearly based on a “true story,” the judge agrees, even though it’s not.
At this point, The Painting: The Movie is considered the official history of the painting, and since you’re not in the movie, no one cares what you have to say. Despite your settlement, which they never heard about, most people view you with about as much respect as a psychopath. Also, The Painting has spawned an industry rife with fraud, but that’s irrelevant, because it’s nominally worth $250 billion according to a stock market in the midst of a bubble which your former friend helped start. The few times the media considers bringing you into a studio for an interview, the interview is cancelled at the last minute because they realize that you don’t like The Painting very much, not to mention how your friend has treated you, and through a network of limited partnerships and members of the 0.1 percent, the news network is actually co-invested with and part of a joint venture with and shares board members with The Painting, Inc.
Meanwhile, a good part of the world has re-aligned itself around the increasingly idiotic and sociopathic whims of your former friend, who has settled comfortably into the life of a billionaire capitalist tyrant.
In addition to your book (Authoritas: One Student’s Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era), you also published some essays (with original documents!) about your friend that some people thought were great and a small minority thought were the rantings of a loser, and although you thought it was important to get the truth out and have been called far worse, eventually you realized that it didn’t matter unless anyone cared. And when you removed them, no one noticed except maybe a few loudmouths repeating the “Just move on” mantra, even though there are numerous other paintings you’ve made since, many of which are a lot more interesting, which they overlooked just so they could keep insulting you.
Meanwhile, the painting is now coated in so many layers of advertisements you can’t even see the [copied] original underneath. But apparently the ads are what everyone loves about it most.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what it was like.
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