This is being touted as “the film that defines a generation”.
Well, SPOILER, but I don’t think so. On the other hand, I think we could have a great conversation about it – what is is, what it could have been, what really does define Facebook and all these other – whatever they are.
And I really would like to have that conversation. At conferences I have seen the most godawfully insipid presentations on Twitter, Facebook, blogging, RSS feeds, etc. I think we can do better.
The movie is pretty brilliant for the first hour. It’s fascinating to see what Facebook started off as. As presented by the movie I read it as a nerd’s revenge on “social clubs”, which I gather is Harvard’s version of frats and sororities.
Okay, look, I went to Berkeley. Frats and sororities were the low end of the totem pole. Being in a frat meant you were suspected of fucking sheep, and at least at the time, that was not completely without reason. And doing sorority rush was cause for massive group intervention every bit as dire as would be learning that a friend’s boyfriend was battering her.
But for someone as misogynistic and socially pathetic as the movie portrays the character of Zuckerberg…. I can see that frats – I mean social clubs – that got hot girls bused into the frat – I mean social club – as entertainment – would incite a nerd’s jealousy and revenge.
On the other hand, there was also the homoerotic undercurrent of Jesse Eisenberg (who I thought was brilliant, btw, wonderful performance) having his first look at the classic erotica fantasy of the Winklevoss twins, in all their 6’5” preppie cutness. Talk about visual imagery: after that I didn’t ever really buy that anyone female had anything to do with anything, motivation-wise.
(By the way, did EVERYONE in college have hot prep jock twins? Serious question, because for all these years I thought that was just me, only to find now that it’s just a college cliché. And yes, the movie did inspire me to Facebook them, and no further will I go on THAT train of thought.)
Anyway, in the movie, Zuckerberg, the ultimate social outcast, creates (the formerly known as) The Facebook as sort of an online social status meter. And the app is complete when a random conversation makes Zuckerberg realize the missing element: the relationship status button. Because the only thing you really care about in college is if someone is single. Or for some people – taken and looking anyway is fine, too.
That was probably the high point of the movie for me because it made me understand what made Facebook – at least originally – a killer app.
From there the movie declined, for me, rapidly, because I thought the filmmakers, and I mean by that Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher (although I can definitely see the fingerprints of producer Mike DeLuca here), who have done such brilliant and emotionally unnerving work elsewhere, never took the trouble to define and portray what the Facebook experience actually IS, at its core.
Okay, well, it’s a biopic. Biopics by nature are unsatisfying – I think because no one can ever fully define a human being. Except in fiction, of course – you CAN define a character. Even the biopics I really love, like Walk The Line, tend to dissolve into soap opera melodrama in the end. I’m always left with an unsatisfied feeling, and this was absolutely true of TSN.
And I guess the filmmakers were most interested in the corporate and legal aspects of the story. But what I wanted was a movie about Facebook.
Why is it Facebook that has taken over the online world? What makes it more addicting than – MySpace, I guess, for example, or the Ning networks or online bulletin boards? Has Facebook become its own Internet within the Internet? Or is Twitter really where it’s at, but not enough people have figured Twitter out to tip it over into critical mass?
Personally I was a little ahead of the curve on the online addiction thing – I burned out all my obsession on an online message board before FB even existed, and of course then the obligatory blogging thing that we all do, and by the time Facebook came along I was politely interested but not rabid the way newbies to internet addiction are.
But I do get some basic things about why Facebook.
First, it’s brilliant that it’s so plain, visually. You don’t have to spend any time setting up a look for your page – in fact, you can’t – so there’s no competition or feelings of inadequacy, there, and no reason to put it off. You can just be up and running.
There may be feelings of inadequacy about numbers of friends, I don’t know. I bet that was a big deal when FB was just on the campuses. But as authors, we have “friends” come to us. We have thousands of them (in fact I am now in the not fun process of having to convert my “friends” over to a fan page – you would think by now FB would have designed an automatic way to do that).
The other obvious thing about FB is that it became the place to be, therefore you can find almost anyone you want from your entire life on it, no matter how long ago you fell out of touch, and message them without having to explain why you are – because everyone else is doing it. (You do get a sense from the movie of how in a business sense that kind of coverage happened, even though the movie only deals with the college phase of FB).
I have not done much on FB to track down people from my past, but I’ve seen in other people what an addiction that is. And for me, the connectivity is great. I like keeping up with real friends – I like getting random updates about what they’re doing. Of course the dark side of that is – that’s no substitute for a relationship. There’s a song about social networking that says something like “and we’ll get together one of these days”, with the clear implication that people just never do anymore, now that there’s FB.
I love the update feature of FB because it’s like having a mini-blog without any of the things that make blogging such an exhausting time suck. Promotionally, it’s great for authors because it requires so much less energy than a blog. You can get a fun thread of conversation going with just a random off-the-wall comment. I have to cop to being extremely judgmental about what people end up posting – the level of inanity is truly off the charts. If a writer can’t come up with something halfway interesting or witty or amusing… But when you have time, if you have time, you can punish those inane time-wasters in your own head by quietly removing them from your news feed.
Anyway, I have no idea of the figures on this but I would venture to guess that you can reach more people in far less time by doing your blogging on FB. But I can’t really say because Murderati has a large audience compared to most blogs, and so does my own blog. I could never use FB as a substitute for my blog, but I have a specific niche – my blog is more a product than a journal. For other people who are not getting the same kind of blog traffic and who hate blogging anyway, I would think FB is a great and maybe sanity-preserving alternative.
And then obviously, FB is “dating” heaven – I think it must have completely replaced singles sites by now. And that is the point I guess the movie was trying to make – that what made FB a killer app is that it allowed people to hook up on line from within a network of friends, which makes it seem less skeevy. Not that skeeviness isn’t happening left and right, it’s just the perception.
(It’s always sex and war that drives entrepreneurial innovation, right?)
So those are the basics that I see driving the phenomenon, but what I really want is to hear what everyone else thinks.
The 64 million dollar essay question is:
– Define the Facebook experience – for you and/or for the world. (Come on, it’s Saturday, you’re only going to spend it on FB anyway.)
But if that’s too overwhelming – here are some softer ones:
– Give us your review of The Social Network.
– Tell us some great biopics and prove me wrong on this genre.
Hope everyone had a good week!