The Social Network

There has been tremendous buzz lately about the new movie The Social Network that was just released. The movie is of course about the founding and early days of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and others who were a part of the company in the beginning have said that the movie is a fictionalized account of how the website and company were actually started – that the beginning of Facebook was Zuckerberg and his cofounders sitting in a room coding, programming, and geeking out.

But whether or not that is the case is of no consequence. And even though the movie pulls a lot of its information from actual depositions of the ensuing lawsuits that followed, it wouldn’t even matter if the beginning of Facebook was Zuckerberg sitting in Sunday school writing letters to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if Facebook was just a dorm room project started to meet girls in a really auspicious beginning. What the movie captures and showcases is our new reality, the way we view our world. In essence, The Social Network is the movie we as a culture need it to be.

While the movie may have set out to capture the before, what it has actually captured is the after, our now, our present reality. The zeitgeist of the Facebook moment. If Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Foursquare, and others are on the left side of the equation, what lies on the other side of the = sign might as well be infinity. This movie is far greater than the sum of its parts.

When Facebook started, it seemed we had all gotten over the hype of a website changing everything… again. Few would have imagined that the creation of another new website would have the effect that it did, and those that did, well, they have a lot of money now.

What Facebook has done is speed up the process. It has taken the rate at which we consume information and increased it a million fold. It has created the possibility for connection with every person we meet in our lives. It has turned strangers into “friends” and friends into voyeurs. It has taken our (previously unknown to ourselves) siloed lives and turned them into a web of connectivity that is nearly inescapable.

What is most interesting is that for as Facebook as evolved, in 6 years, as large as it has grown, as fast as it has expanded, it is still grounded in a collegiate mentality. Whether you are 16 or 60 you are doing the exact same thing - you are cultivating your personality, adding friends, keeping your eyes on what everybody else is doing, all from the comfort of your own home, all without moving more than your index finger, all without even opening your mouth.

Facebook quickly became the pacesetter in an industry that is all about connectivity. How many different aspects of our lives can we share with each other and how fast we can do it? We understand the benefits. We are reuniting with people we had otherwise forgotten about, and staying connected to people we might not otherwise have a chance to. The drawbacks? Well, they are different for everybody.

It’s all very Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind. Don’t want to know what’s going on with your ex boyfriend? Defriend him. Don’t particularly like how you looked at that holiday party? Untag yourself, it’s like you were never there. More than any time in the history of the planet we have the ability to cultivate the kind of life we appear to have, and the life we choose to remember.
I know this is nothing new, and I’m not saying anything earth shattering, but I think that’s just the point. The arrival of Facebook didn’t instantly change the way we live our lives the way 9/11 did, it has done it almost surreptitiously, working its way into every corner of your behavior. Kind of like the difference between making a sharp left turn and veering just slightly off course can both take you way off your path.

This is our new reality. Not just dramatically different, epically so. Whereas every mistake, mishap, missed connection, and messed up relationship became reassigned to the bowels of our memories, fleeing from our present with a tremendous ephemerality, now our history is incredibly tied to our present. We define ourselves by it.

It is unlike any other innovation of media we have seen. It is unignorable. Trust me, I tried. Whether or not you choose to be you are a part of it, you are. In the background of a picture you didn’t now you were in, acknowledged as a relative, or otherwise.

Even though Facebook may not have had a cutthroat beginning with back stabbings, parties with coke and booze, that kind of a lifestyle could exist for it now. Social media isn’t just a thing or a trend, it is an industry, a cash crop capable of being grown in the most unlikely of locations.

Silicon valley isn’t so much a location anymore as it is a mentality, a spirit, and an energy that has spread across the country creating a tech industry in New York that was previously nonexistent. There is a line in the social network where Justin Timberlake’s character says to Jesse Eisenberg’s

This is our time.

And he couldn’t be more right. This is our time, to create, to share, to ignore and to cultivate as we see fit.

Facebook may indeed have been just a couple of guys from Harvard coding through the night in the same clothes they wore yesterday, but the film conveys the significance and gravitas that we as a culture, hell, we as a species, have attached to it. It is the single most significant change to the way we as human beings interact with each other and ourselves.

It is not unfair to say that the future of Facebook and the future of our lives are now inextricably linked. And just like the Social Network may not necessarily be a perfect representation of what actually happened, neither are our lives.

Not anymore.