This is precisely the question I googled when I got home from seeing the movie, “Social Network” last night. I know that the media doesn’t perfectly portray reality but Zuckerberg’s character certainly highlighted many of the characteristics of a person with Aspergers. And, judging from the articles that came up in my search, I wasn’t the only person that thought that!
According to Diagnostic Criteria for Aspergers Syndrome, the movie version of Mark Zuckerberg met many of the criteria:
- Marked impairment in the ability to use non-verbal behaviors. Was I the only one trying to follow his dialogue with his girlfriend in the opening scene? Verbally he was not making smooth transitions in conversation, but also his body postures, limited eye contact and lack of facial expression made it hard to read his intent.
- Impairment in social and occupational functioning. I found myself wanting to help Mark’s character through the sea of college social events, fraternity parties, special clubs, dates etc. He seemed preoccupied and not enjoying what he peers naturally enjoy.
- Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to his developmental level. Mark couldn’t sustain a girlfriend. His judgement to blog about their breakup and make crude comments would have seemingly ended their relationship forever but when he spotted her in a restaurant later, he tried to take up where he left off–not realizing the consequences of his actions.
- No clinically significant delay in language or cognitive development. You can say that again! This guy was portrayed as brilliant–perfect scores on his SAT’s and breezing through Harvard while preoccupied with starting what is being called the biggest startup since Google.
My last little research after watching the movie was to see what the real Mark Zuckerberg is like so I watched a “60 Minutes” interview with Leslie Stahl from 2009.
I was amazed at how much he looked like his Hollywood double but also thought he was pretty adept at the interview until there was a breakdown. Ms Stahl made the statement that “You seem to be replacing Larry and Sergey..” intimating he was the hot new thing since Google. Zuckerberg didn’t respond verbally or nonverbally. Stahl referenced his just staring at her and that she had heard he might be difficult to interview. Then he said, “Was that a question?” Maybe he is just incredibly clever, but it could be a blip related to a lack of social skills.
Whether or not the real Mark Zuckerberg has Aspergers is perhaps a mute point. The greater message here is about his incredible accomplishments either in spite of or because of possible limitations.
Go see the movie. It was great.