The Social Network: Some Thoughts on the Film and Facebook

The Social Network (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)Okay. I finally watched it. I no longer need to feel guilty, or have people say “Why haven’t you seen The Social Network.” Yes, it’s a fantastic film, and yes, I should have seen it earlier. Four stars, and great watching. Acting, score, cinematography, screenplay–the movie fires on all cylinders. Some observations:

First, on the King’s Speech vs. Social Network debate. I don’t think there’s much of one. They’re two different movies trying to do two different things. King’s Speech is more of a feel good piece, while Social Network explores the gray area of copyright domains, business practices, morality and friendship. I enjoyed both. Social Network is the better film, though–and I tend to think that will be realized in later years.

I think one of the things I like about both of these pictures is that they’re adaptations of books which are adaptations of real life. Historical events are twisted and tweaked to make for better drama, and that’s just fine by me. It would be interesting to see other people take the same history and make movies that are completely different in tone. (For an example of this, compare the Cary Grant Night and Day with the Kevin Kline De-Lovely, both biopics of Cole Porter, and wildly different in tone and material.) Was Mark Zuckerburg as big of a jerk as he is on the screen in this movie? I don’t care. But I already talked about that in my review of the King’s Speech.

Second, I’d like to discuss ideas on Facebook for a bit. I think we’re past the point where people can dismiss Facebook as a fad, just as it would be difficult for someone to argue that Google is just a passing fancy. The offerings these services give the public are now taken for granted, and even if the institutions themselves ever fall out of favor, the offerings they support likely won’t. Facebook allows users to be connected in ways never before possible. It’s the phone book of the future, and you only have to release your number to people you like. Ignoring Facebook is a huge faux pas if you’re a business or a public figure who wants to be even more public. Denisa’s Breadweaver business is successful in large part thanks to her Facebook presence. She was able to get her product and message out to a large enough group quickly, and she now uses it to handle orders and make product announcements. And it’s free and easy to use. Perfect.

If you’re not a business or public figure, yes, you can get by without Facebook. People get by without a lot of things, from running water to satellite television. Where Facebook falls on that scale is a personal decision, but the fact remains that it has fundamentally changed the way we interact with people. We all now have an online persona, just as we have an in-person persona, or a phone-persona. Facebook acts as a hub for me, tying together all my different online endeavors, from Twitter to my Blog, into one spot where my friends (who have decided to use Facebook, too) can see and interact with them. Gone are the days of falling out of touch with people just because you move towns or switch jobs.

And it’s not just Facebook. As a whole, technology is changing how we behave and interact. We’re more likely to multitask these days–to text while we’re watching a movie and checking our email, all at the same time. Facebook started 7 years ago. Who knows where we’ll be 7 years from now. It’s scary and exciting to think that life as we know it can so fundamentally change so quickly now, but that’s the nature of the beast.

What The Social Network brings to light so well is that, as much as things are changing quickly, the same desires that have driven us for thousands of years continue to drive us on an individual level. The movie almost had a feel of a modern Greek Tragedy, just without the distasteful Oedipal vibes. So while the future is a big unknown, some things can be relied on: people will continue to do mean, nasty things to each other; friendships will be made and broken–that sort of thing.

I don’t know. I’m wandering pretty far afield now, and I’ve got to bring this post to a close. The Social Network was a great movie. Great for inspiring conversations with people who have seen it. Great for thinking about it long after it’s over. And that’s something The King’s Speech was missing. The Social Network made it up to the next level–it wasn’t just a movie. It was Art. And yet it was really entertaining. What else is there?

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