The Social Network

I remember the first time Facebook changed its privacy policy. At the time, I felt sorry for Mark. I thought about him as Mark–a peer, a fellow student, this college nerd who made a website. I felt about him the same way I feel about bands who change once they sign on with a major label–like he’d been manipulated. Like he was a victim.

Over the years, Mark became Mark Zuckerberg or Zuckerberg. I’ve never taken that childish step and called him ‘Fuckerberg,” as I’m sure he’s been called once or twice, but I’ve definitely inserted–mentally at least–”F.” as his middle initial in the same vein of William F. Shatner, but less like he’s my crazy uncle who had a troubled childhood and is perhaps a little bit racist, and more like he’s offended me in some deep, personal way. Like Wil F. Wheaton.

As Facebook changed more, I felt less like Mark was being taken advantage of and more like Zuckerberg was taking advantage of me. The removal of the course selection aspect was the first drop. High school students was another line. With the addition of high school students, I realized that we as a college generation were losing the social network we had just been given and already felt entitled to.

Plus, they were kids. I mean, seriously now. High school kids on facebook was, to me, like high school kids at a college party: morally wrong, a little offensive, and the guys hitting on them skeeved me out.

In 2006, there were banners and I knew the end was coming. It was no longer cool. Later that year, when it became such that anyone with an internet connection could join facebook. It was no longer a facebook. It was another “social networking site.” I don’t want to say the exclusivity made it special, I want to say the function of connecting students to other students gave it a purpose. It made it a tool. It made it useful. It made it cool.

In 2007, Facebook launched Facebook ads. 2009 brought “like” and usernames. Somewhere along the way the “is” was dropped from status updates. The feed got crazy. Looking back, I can’t remember facebook before we began to refer to it as “stalkerbook.” I do remember going to a dance club my freshman year and yelling at a guy in a Nazi uniform. He friended me later. Back then, it was hard to find people at universities other than your own.

I’ve had a facebook–the “account” is implicit–for six years.

I went to see The Social Network, but that has little to do with my facebook use. I view my explaining my history as a form of disclosure. A psychoanalytical map.

I went to see The Social Network because it was written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David Fincher, and starring Jesse Eisenberg–three men I think are pretty cool. When I first heard about the movie, I didn’t know who was going to be involved. I knew there was going to be a facebook movie and I -wanted- to hate it. I wanted to hate it so hard. When I heard about the people behind it, I knew that would be unlikely. When I saw the previews, I knew it would be near impossible, but I still hoped.

I went into the theater hoping the movie was going to be a bust.

A lot of reviews I’ve seen about the Social Network talk about what it wasn’t. People say it wasn’t a film with enough strong women in it–that they didn’t emphasize the work and contributions of women in Facebook enough. People say it wasn’t a piece of commentary talking about the amazing thing Mark Zuckerberg really did. People say it wasn’t a movie about intellectual property or copyright.

They’re right; it wasn’t any of those things.

The Social Network is a movie about the relationships between several individuals who play prominent roles in the origin story of Facebook. Specifically, the individuals who ended up suing Mark Zuckerberg. It is a movie about friendship. It is a movie that’s -good-.

I believe that the hardest stories to tell are the ones we all know. The Social Network tells the story of the founding of Facebook, the changes it went through, and how things fell apart between the people who founded it. If you follow tech news, news, Facebook, or wikipedia, you generally know these things. You have a vague idea that things have changed. With the movie coming out, these stories have been more in the spotlight. This means that the worth of the movie cannot be in the story itself, but rather how it’s told.

Rather than focusing on a lead character to drive the movie forward, the action is moved by events. The characters themselves are developed enough that they can be carried by what’s going on.

It’s obviously a work of fiction, but it’s a work of brilliant fiction. Aaron Sorkin–and everything he does I look at through “Sorkin colored glass”–wrote a brilliant script, marked by his particular flavor of humor. For those unfamiliar with it, Sorkin humor is best shown through quick deliveries of normal lines, repeating things, and assurances followed by negative comments.

For example (I made this one up):
– Don’t call Lisa.
+ I’m not going to call Lisa.
– Good. Just don’t call her.
+ I won’t.
* + gets up *
– What are you going to do?
+ I’m going to call Lisa.

From The West Wing:

Sam: About a week ago I accidentally slept with a prostitute.
Toby Really?
Sam: Yes.
Toby: You accidentally slept with a prostitute.
Sam: Call girl.
Toby: Accidentally.
Sam: Yes.
Toby: I don’t understand. Did you trip over something?

Sorkin creates a sort of escapist fantasy for smart people. Everyone is clever. The Social Network is the same, but instead it draws on fictional accounts of real people to create a strange world I enjoy as long as I don’t think about it too much.

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