Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Coolest Party Ever

commentary on the film, the social network

When did you join facebook?

Were you aware of how much your world would change when you did? Are you aware even now?

One of the many brilliant and wonderful things about David Fincher's riveting picture, the social network, doesn't happen in the film at all. It happens inside of you. When you watch this story about the most important website of our time, you can't help but see yourself on the screen.

“That's me up there,” you think without reflection. “I'm on facebook.” You picture your own page. With not a small amount of glee, you say to yourself: “I'm a part of this story.”

And you are. You realize it without realizing it. You ARE a part of this movie. And you love the film because of it.

And this is why this movie is the movie of our time-- at least, right now at this second. It's a movie about itself that is about all of us seeing this movie about itself. It's the title! We see this movie in order to exercise our own role, socially, in the network that 'the social network' the film is all about.

We watch ourselves watching ourselves.

It's a great story, too. It's about a friendship as much as it's about the birth of facebook. You'll care for these fictionalized, real people and wonder what they are doing now.

Mostly, however, you can't help but see how astonishingly significant facebook is.

What facebook has done to all of us is, well, kind of hard to grasp. It hasn't simply enhanced how we interact, made things more convenient, or virtualized real life. It's dramatically changed all the boundaries of the social game.

As Aaron Sorkin's sharply articulate script shows us, facebook has taken a simple truth of humanity (we love to include and exclude people from our lives) and intersected it with a complicated truth of the internet (it's a global connectivity network that one can access alone in intimate moments).

The result? Just like in life B.F. (before-facebook), we get access to people by giving them access to us. But now, W.F. (with-facebook) we can remotely share (and watch) the most private and real moments of human existence. With anyone we choose to share it.

As Mark Zuckerberg, played smartly by Jesse Eisenberg, reveals to us in the film: we love exclusivity. More than anything, we want control over access.  We want to be cool.

We want to have velvet ropes, bouncers, and lines to the party of our own lives. We want to control the guest lists and final approval on the official photos. We are in demand, hanging with other people who are in demand.

Facebook has done the impossible: it has allowed everyone to feel cool.

We all get to feel like celebrities, both elevated and scrutinized as well as reduced and commodified. 

We curate the photos of our lives that tell a narrative that we want people to see-- and others do the same with their photos. And it goes both ways.  Now we get pictures of people that we can look any time we want, of moments we'd only have access to if we were intimate friends. 

More so, you get to do this with acquaintances that you accept as friends- because facebook offers access to all 'friends.' Best friends, casual friends, barely friends-- if you are a friend, you get the whole enchilada. Privacy will never be the same.

Facebook has transformed us. 

After the seeing the movie, my friends and I went out to eat. One of my friends swore she knew the waitress-- from facebook. They had never met, but my friend was sure she could identify this stranger by name.  We, alas, never asked the waitress-- but there we were, watching her across the room, as she brought cocktails to another table.  She was the star of her own movie.  We were her interested audience.

Everyone has had this experience. Facebook has celebritified all of us.

Right now, even while you are reading this, someone is probably looking through pictures of you from your vacation this summer.  There you are on the dock, your feet in the water.  The light is perfect.  You look great from that angle.

Welcome to the new world of interaction.  The world of facebook.

You're cool.


  1. Groovy stuff. Who'd ever thought an old fart like me would be responding to your blog. PS, I have some far out photos of you in Spudland I'll put on facebook soon. Oh yeah, I did a painting of that pic we talked about. Keep the faith Mikeman.