The Social Network

Susan and I went and saw the new movie, The Social Network. The movie seemed interesting enough to see eventually, but after seeing four-star reviews as a norm among the critics I was moved to see it at the theatre. It was a good movie in the sense of how it was made, but it was dark and left very little redeemable value. What fascinated me about the movie is that it was about this recent phenomenon, the social network. I have been a member of Facebook maybe since 2004, when my roommate Greg Rogers created accounts for my other roommates and me without our consent. It felt at the time and I am almost more certain of it now, that it was a weird thing and a thing that lived and breathed on the hype of the masses.

After seeing the movie, the Social Network, though definitely not a factual story, I feel more aware of the attractiveness. At the core of us all we want to belong, to be a part of something, but naturally this involves the exclusion of others. In essence, if everyone belonged then no one would belong. The very idea of exclusion is what appeals to our nature, and it is driven by comparison to our peers. I remember when Facebook was only for those in universities. Auburn, at the time, was one of the universities included, and I must admit that I was part of something unique and I to some degree reveled in it. I remember when Facebook was expanded to high schools and then later to any and all who desire to have a Facebook account. There came this feeling that it was no longer unique or “cool”. It had lost much of its appeal to me because it was no longer exclusive.

What is fascinating to me is the brilliance of Facebook to keep attracting people. It almost seems that it is now using the famous “everyone’s doing it” tactic and it is working. Don’t get me wrong; I think there is nothing intrinsically wrong in Facebook or the social network. I think it is amoral, a tool that can be used for good and for bad. Obviously, I still have Facebook, but like anything I must be careful.

The sad consequence of the booming social network, though, is that it is causing our interpersonal relationships to suffer. I have many a friend who will be more into Twitter and Facebook on their phone than the conversation that is happening in person. A USA Today article states that people are more open with their personal life in a public sphere on the Internet than within their groups of people they interact with daily. The problem with the social network is that it fosters an artificial community that makes us feel like we belong but lacks genuine accountability to who we truly are in our daily lives. This is not to say that we cannot or do not hide in real life. It is to say that we have empowered our hiding and created an artificial feeling of belonging that promotes narcissism.

The redeemable aspect of the movie, The Social Network, the “take home” so-to-speak, is the grim lesson that the main character learned. In gaining all these artificial friends via the internet, he gave up the one genuine relationship he had. People throughout the movie started becoming friends with him because of his success or brilliance, but never for who he was, and you can see it takes its toll on him. The movie might as well be a parable to our generation whose identity is wrapped up in the ability and the availability to communicate what we want others to think about us without having to live up to it. All the while, neglecting the beautiful souls who are right in front of us. True community can be had, but I doubt it can ever be genuinely had via the internet.
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