The Social Network

I finally got to see the movie, and it had me metaphorically glued to the screen the entire time.

I don’t know how much artistic licence was taken.  Given the gagging clauses in the settlements of the real case, I’ll probably never know. Yet, what was presented on the screen gave considerable food for thought. It wasn’t all roses.  I think the thorns were more prominent than the roses.

Third level college is about personal development as much as it is about intellectual development.  The first few years as an official adult away from the protective eye of parents are hugely significant. We make mistakes, we do silly things, we hurt others, we get hurt.  No-one ever forgets the first time they have their heart smashed by a member of the opposite (or same, depending on your preferences) gender.  You hurt and then you move on wiser and having learned from the experience.

In the internet age, it’s not so easy. The social tools of the internet allow permanent records to be kept and to be kept in public form. The Mark Zuckerberg character was devastated by the Erica rejection and blogs publicly and rather nastily about it. He moves on …. to create a widely-subscribed social website to hit out at the female of the species.  In contrast, most people would likely have commiserated face-to-face with a small number of friends.

Scale comes across very strongly in the movie.  Everything is bigger than big. The numbers subscribing to facebook (and its various predecessors) are huge, the money put into it is huge, its valuation is huge, the Harvard social life portrayed is over-the-top, the fall-outs and exploitations among friends are extensive – so much so that one wonders how they can ever be repaired. Thankfully, most of us have less dramatic student lives.

On a more positive note, I’m intrigued by how someone without a wide circle of close friends and at such a young age put his finger on the pulse of what makes Facebook so popular. The exclusivity factor, you decide who is in your in-group and who isn’t, is crucial. If you want to be choosy or friend every person you ever meet is completely your choice. The relationship-status is critical for the age group Facebook is aimed at. And it is never over, it’s a perpetual beta, friendships grow and evolve and sometimes die and new ones take their place.  And how this is documented is totally in the hands of those who chose to Facebook. Some use it more wisely than do others.

There were other aspects of the movie that caught my attention. Examples are the social snobbery coming across on the Harvard campus (the elite kids of rich families and not-so-elite kids), the pride that is taken in being a hacker, the intangible and undefinable nature of friendship, the social role of the internet, the role of the social web in doing one’s homework (the art history assignment that was completed through invited comments on a social website – collaboration or sneakily getting others to do the work for you?), the comment from Sean Parker – “it might not be good business but it pissed a lot of people off”, and the copyright comment – if you make a chair do you then have to share your profits with everyone who ever made a chair?

Yes, it wasn’t a positive feel-good movie but it kept my attention the entire time.  It was a movie that I wanted to come away and have a conversation about, a movie to think about.

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Posted on October 23, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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