News Feed: “Facebook is now in a complicated relationship with The Social Network.”
I may be the last person on the planet who, before this weekend, had not seen “The Social Network.” Now that I’ve caught up, I wish I was still the last person on the planet who hadn’t seen “The Social Network.”
My opinion of the movie has little to do with the fact that I was friends with Mark Zuckerberg in public school. We weren’t extremely close, but I knew him well enough that my mother was willing to make him the sole exception to the “No Dating Until You’re 18” rule (oh! Mothers and their power of foresight!). “The Social Network” is not a bad movie because it’s an inaccurate portrayal of one of the most enigmatic (and powerful) characters of our generation. It’s a bad movie because it’s superficial, boring, and disjointed.
Our obsession with Facebook and its creator is a complicated one that dictates the way we respond to “The Social Network.” Until recently, Zuckerberg stayed out of the spotlight. When we did see him interviewed, he was reticent, brilliant but hard to relate to. The lawsuits attacking possible underhanded dealings threatened to take Facebook from us. We knew there were a few of them, but what were they about? And yet, while there were those who tried to halt its forward march, “to Facebook” became an action we can’t live without.
We’re inclined to like “The Social Network” because as Facebook rapidly penetrated every click and every interaction, we craved a neat summary of how this idea born in a Harvard dorm room transformed into a global phenomenon — a phenomenon that has irrevocably changed the way people connect.
We live in a world where getting there first is the principal criteria for “coolness,” the leading criteria for critical acclaim. The iPod will always trump other mp3 players because it got there first. “The Social Network” will always trump future Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg movies because it was the first to tell us the Facebook story. Stephen Holden of the NYTimes calls it “a once-in-a-generation movie,” and it is, simply because the next Facebook movie is another decade in the making.
Facebook is an empowering platform that allows us to not only communicate, but to curate our lives. It enables us to pick and choose and update the details that shape the way we’re perceived by our peers. We have become objects in an online museum where our solo-exhibits change as frequently as we choose. Even if Facebook one day implodes, an unlikely event now that it’s so ingrained in our social and digital fabric, we will never revert to the old ways of locating, messaging, and digitally relating to people.
That’s the true Oscar-caliber performance of Mark Zuckerberg’s social network. Sorkin’s and Fincher’s snooze fest pales in comparison.