Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI wasn't planning on either seeing or writing about The Social Network, the new movie based on the book The Accidental Billionaires, but here I'm doing it anyway, because a projector broke in the theater showing the new Ben Affleck movie.
I wasn't planning on seeing The Social Network because I already spend enough time on Facebook, on my own social experiment. I am still getting comfortable with my on-line "self," which is limited to exactly that: myself. You won't see any pics of my family. And you also won't see me gossiping or saying anything mean. Yet I love the sense of feeling connected to a vast network of people, trading humorous quips, sharing personal and global news. It's FUN. Still, I am very aware that what you "say" on the internet is out there forever.
As it turned out, the movie is not about Facebook really. It is about the price of that overwhelming success, and how insecurity, revenge and ambition combust. It is Mark Zuckerberg as cautionary tale, shown through the character's inability to remedy his public cruelties against those closest to him. Michael Eisenberg's almost Aspergy-y portrayal of Zuckerberg is compelling right from the first scene, when his soon to be ex-girlfriend calls him "exhausting - it's like dating a stairmaster." He is grossly insecure and narcissistic, driven by revenge and obsessed with exclusivity. These frailties and obsessions drive him ironically toward creating Facebook, which succeeds because it is not exclusive.
We all make mistakes and misrepresent ourselves verbally. We all struggle with anger and how to express it appropriately. The Social Network seems to warn against impulsivity, and how acting on our hurt and rage in such a passive yet public way is corrosive to the soul. Aaron Sorkin's script was great, the actors were excellent, the editing masterful, David Fincher's direction suspenseful, and it was perfected by Trent Reznor's score. Yet my husband and I left the theater unsatisfied by the ending, as a sympathetic lawyer tells Zuckerberg he's not the jerk he tries so hard to be. The story seems to let him off the hook. How disconcerting, when weekly tragic news reports remind us that what you broadcast on the public forum of the internet does have consequences.
Still, we can only focus on ourselves, yes? And leave the more critical Op Ed's to writers like Frank Rich who postulated in his piece in the NY Times today that Mark Zuckerberg is not the problem. Yes he agrees, "You leave the movie with the sinking feeling that the democratic utopia breathlessly promised by Facebook and it's web brethren is already gone with the wind," but he goes on to tell us that Facebook politicians have taken over "and they are not your friends." They will say anything to win - Mark Zuckerberg's sowing the seeds of Facebook from his need for revenge (blogging nasty things about ex girlfriend and then creating a Hot Or Not rating system for female college students) are just a drop in the bucket in today's world of lies, false witness and half truths masquerading as reality.
Ugh. Not the greatest bedtime story.
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