22 October 2010


I found The Social Network, the film about the founding of Facebook and its contentious and litigious development, to be one of the saddest films I’ve seen in a very long time. Interestingly, in a film about social connection, there is no social connecting in the film. Though by film’s end the company celebrates one million subscribers, in fact in the film no one actually talks to one another or makes a real connection on Facebook. Other than its membership growth, we see nothing of its social influence. Though Facebook is the network that everyone wants to join, simply belonging to Facebook seems to be the driving motive behind its growth and not some vague anticipation of relieving the overwhelming alienation that the computer et al. has led to in society. In this film, no one connects to anyone else.

Indeed, Facebook exacerbates this alienation: on the network one can befriend hundreds of people and talk to no one. On the network one need not go anywhere outside the computer screen. On the network, one need not be in the world. By film’s end no one remain friends; those who once claimed to a friendship have severed whatever ties that might have once bound them, tenuous though those ties might have always been. News might move instantly on Facebook, but in the film nothing else happens on Facebook. Indeed, in the film itself, no one communicates.

And in this no one smiles in the film, except perhaps the lawyers who I expect reaped a fortune from the litigation concerning the intellectual property rights battle surrounding the network. This film about a social network to link millions of people is totally without joy. Except for that of Sean Parker, the notorious and insidiously slick entrepreneur, there is no laughter in the film, but only drunken and raucous partying rife with alcohol and drug use, and blatant raw sexuality devoid of any emotional content. Amy accuses Sean of not knowing her name, but in fact it is she who can’t recall the name of the man with whom she has spent the night. She does have a Facebook. There isn’t the faintest idea of intimacy in the sex except the purely physical one, and even that seems impersonal. The only time Zuckerberg is with a woman he is faceless in the scene; it is Saverin’s sexual encounter that the film records. Zuckerberg founds a social network that won’t have him for a member.

Those of us without money might consider with some envy the great wealth acquired by Zuckerberg, Saverin and the Winklevoss Brothers, but in reality the loneliness of these central characters stands in stark contrast to the social network that is developed and over which they fight for mostly financial rights. It is the loneliness in the film that overwhelms me. One would say that only Erica, Zuckerberg’s original girlfriend whose breakup with Zuckerberg seems to have been the ultimate stimulus for Facebook’s formation, maintains some social real network. We see her always amongst a group of people of whom she is clearly a member. And it is she who won’t friend Zuckerberg in the film’s final scene that comments ultimately on the complete social failure of the social network.


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