October 4, 2010

The Lonely Side of The Social Network.

The movie, ‘The Social Network’ features the birth of Facebook inside the milieu of partying college kids.

For the video trailer of The Social Network (plus two parodies), click here.

The Mark Zuckerberg character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, coded Facebook in a state of lonely ambition. He had recently been dumped. He worked hard. He wanted recognition.

The movie shows Zuckerberg creating a web site that compared the attractiveness of female Harvard students using easily hacked photos of classmates just prior to making Facebook. This part of the movie is based in fact. And it was in this expression of his misogynist anger for a recent ex that a pre-Facebook site was created for—or rather, at—all female Harvard students.

In Facebook people would (and do) provide their own photos and other information for viewing and comparison. It’s something we can do by ourselves, alone, and promises to connect us to others in a virtually social, yet private way.

There’s a point in the movie where Facebook is built, and running. Lots of people on it, and more are joining. And the Zuckerberg character says something about still learning what it is. It seems to say that Facebook isn’t merely the computer code that makes it up. With many things that people make, once the thing is made, you sort of know what it is. Let’s say I make a garden, and after I’ve prepared the dirt and done some planting, we know what it is. But in the case of Facebook, its growth was so fantastic that its eventual size and nature wasn’t known, so nobody could say how big it would be, or how exactly it would develop. And it’s still growing.

What Facebook is depends on how people use it. Is it somewhere to play games, find a date, express yourself, chat, share pictures or stories, connect with people having similar interests, find old classmates or workmates, a place to buy things or advertize, and so on?

Somehow, in the magic of the movie, I found myself thinking that Facebook (or other social networks) are channeling a natural resource that is newly able to be contained into a flow across a large number of people: a social resource. It seems similar, in some ways, to the pipelines that move oil, gas or water. Now, there is a “pipeline” to channel social interaction across the globe. That is, indeed, a huge and extremely valuable thing.

This little jewel of a concept was inspired in a movie where young man computer programmers rule. A job interview was shown as a competition to write code and do shots simultaneously. Alcohol and programming prowess were apparently intertwined in the early Facebook team.

The young women in the movie were mostly sexy or perhaps funny drunks, there to spice things up. I guess there was also one “cold bitch” type and a “psycho girlfriend”. Pretty shallow. The men characters were mostly of little substance, and goofy, too. Stereotyped college kids, but entertaining nonetheless.

Even though the characters were thin like Facebook profiles, I did enjoy watching Zuckerberg moving through the different situations in the movie.

I had felt connected enough to Facebook, and familiar enough with the name “Mark Zuckerberg” to want to see the movie. And the initial buzz seems to say it’s a good movie. I liked it, and was simultaneously annoyed by the lack of intelligent women in the story. But I have to assume that that’s just it: it’s a story about successful young men that is decorated with beautiful women getting drunk and making out to help a scene set in a room of men at computers hold our attention. I don’t like this aspect of it.

I signed up on Facebook to connect with yogis in Chicago, across the U.S., and around the globe. Along the way, I’ve connected with long-lost acquaintances, and “friended” my real-life friends. So, for me, it’s become a mix of promoting my blog and peeking into the lives of people I know in-person, and people I haven’t yet met. I’ve made some nice connections, had some great conversations, and pissed some people off.

I try not to spend too much time looking through other people’s pictures. A little bit is okay. But if I feel like I’m getting to know a friend’s kid through the pictures on Facebook, it’s time to set a play-date. Or if I catch myself feeling sorry for myself as I’m viewing someone else’s fabulous-looking life, it’s time to get off Facebook!

Living life Online is a sad and lonely life! It can be mentally stimulating, and good connections can be made, no doubt! But let’s pay attention to how we are spending our time. And be sure to “friend” people in person, too.

And see the movie, if you want to. Oh, Yeah… Here’s where you can find me on Facebook.

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Brooks Hall  |  Contribution: 10,620