My friends have bugged me for a long time— ‘you need to get on Facebook’. In response to repeated questions as to why, the usual response was “so you can connect with everyone”, and when I asked why my website or blog was insufficient, the answer was that I could see what others were saying or doing. Besides, only a few mortals don’t want more ‘friends’. The problem is, so many people want to be confirmed as my friend, and I don’t even know many, if not most, of them. Its one thing to be cordial and friendly, its another thing to be someone’s friend, and this whole electronic dilution of the term ‘friend’ is a problem.
Nevertheless, I went to the movie ‘Social Network’ with an open mind on its opening day. Aaron Sorkin, without question, is one of the best writers of dialogue in any of the visual media. I loved what he did with West Wing, and I was prepared to love what he would do with Social Network. The movie is certainly interesting enough. It even has a certain level of suspense, the problem is—- I don’t really like any of the major characters in this movie (except maybe Eduardo) and the amoral or plain immoral depiction of life at Harvard, and the lack of ethics of its brightest and best did not exactly warm the cockles of my heart either. Mark Zuckerberg is hard enough to like, never mind to love, and when you throw in his willingness to attempt to humiliate various of his fellow students and even his one true friend, and allow that friend to be cut out of the Facebook picture, it would take all that Aaron Sorkin could muster to make the main characters in this movie likable. They are about as beautiful as barricudas and pleasant as piranhas.
Why then is this movie important? It is important because it chronicles not so much the technological revolution, but the desperate need for connectivity, for social networks on the part of millions of people, both in America and elsewhere in the early 21rst century. It aptly diagnoses the desperation of the young, the desperate need to be wanted, to be liked, to be ‘friended’. In a world that lacks love, people will settle for ‘like’ or even just ‘connection’. But when socializing and even sex becomes just ‘connectivity’ it has been cheapened and trivialized out of all recognition. It has turned something beautiful into something sad and tawdry, and meaningless. The paradox chronicled in this movie is in a world of ever increasing connection, there seems to be less and less real love.
At the end of this movie there are no tears or cheers for the nerd who became a billionaire. His girlfriend aptly summed up his problem early on in the movie—- people didn’t reject or dis him because he was a nerd, it was because he was an A-hole, and he ruthlessly messed with and messed up other people’s lives just because he had the technical skill to do it.
In an upside down cyber-world world where hacking and spaming are seen as skills and virtues, ‘Social Network’ tells us, that you can get rich with such skills as well. As the credits played, so did the Beatles song ‘Baby your a Rich Man’ and we are regaled with how much money Mark and his partners, and those who sued him and got settlements (including Eduardo his one real friend) made. Maybe they should have listened a little closer to that Beatle’s song, and to George Harrison’s ‘Sue Me, Sue You Blues’. ‘For what doth it profit a man to gain the whole network, and lose his soul……’