The Social Network nabbed four statues at last night's Golden Globe Awards. It's a great film, yes. But (and this is not a bad 'but') I feel that the film's success could in part be due to its relevance to today's world. Not to get too "English-class-y", but in some ways, this isn't just a film but a commentary on contemporary society. The movie turns a mirror on us.
While it's engrossing and fascinating and educational to lose yourself in a movie about a stuttering King, or about a fighter from Loel, Michigan, or a crazy ballerina – these are all worlds of other people. These are all stellar films, and they all do their job in making us identify a part of ourselves with their protagonists. But in David Fincher's film, that's one thing he doesn't have to work as hard at. We all know what it's like to be on Facebook, and we all know what it and other social networking tools are doing to change the way we communicate.
All kinds of workplaces offer seminars on bridging the generation gap. The Boomers don't understand why the Gen-Y-ers can't just pick up the phone and call, or walk down the hallway to have a conversation. And Gen-Y don't get why they should pick up the phone or walk down the hall when they could just send an email and simultaneously be writing a mid-term report with the other hand. Not too long ago, Facebook was one of the tools those Boomers rolled their eyes at.
But what's happening now?
Your mom is on Facebook. Your boss is on Facebook. Your kindergarten teacher is on Facebook. Your NAN is on Facebook! One by one, slowly and silently, they all sheepishly sidled on board to check out the scene. As the tool evolved, people started realizing that the photos are a great way to keep in touch! We not only look at our friends and relatives photos, but at the photos of people we have never met and probably never will meet. Whether you're one of those Facebook-ers who 'likes' every single thing you see and comments on every post on every newsfeed on every hour of every day, or whether you're one of those Facebook-ers who acts like you're never on Facebook, but really you're on Facbeook every hour of every day, creeping around all over the place - everyone is on Facebook, and everyone has their own strong opinion of Facebook.
It's a phenomenon that has caught on like a bad case of herpes, going from an online college yearbook and popularity contest, making its way into the workplace, the newsroom, and splooging all other social media tools.
Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and others, anyone can be a reporter, a filmmaker, a newsmaker, a blogger (hey, even I can be a blogger! See? I'm doing it right now!). Even moreso, journalists are no longer restricted to the Oprah Winfrey Show to get story ideas. They can now make a big chunk of their living by following stories that have gone viral on social media channels.
Such a mammoth phenomenon in our society begs the question, “How did this wonderful disease start??”
For Boomers, perhaps this movie is a chance to gain insight into the Gen-Y mindset.
And for Gen-Y, maybe it's inspiration for how to make the next version of Facebook happen.
If all the celebrities at last night's Golden Globes are the 2003 Harvard class in Fincher's film, then we the audience are the little minion Mark Zuckerbergs – tweeting and bleeping our every thought and feeling to the world. I sat on Facebook and Twitter last night watching in real-time what hundreds of people all over the world thought of Ricky Gervais' slams, Angelina Jolie fixing Brad's tie and putting on her lipgloss, Helena Bonham Carter sneering and snarling that mouth of hers as her lipstick-covered teeth stood out under that hornet's nest she called hair.
See? I'm doing it right now! Everyone's a critic! To some people, Facebook is still one big high school gossip garden. And according to the film, that's how Facebook began.
The movie Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) planted the Facebook seed after going on a ravenous and over-zealous blogging rant about a girl who just dumped him. Using bloging tools, he blasted out his cruel, bitter emotions to whoever cared to read, and from that emotion, that connection with other human beings (no matter how ill-natured it may be) he was prompted to create a tool where friends (and sometimes enemies) can be bash each other 24-7.
Facebook has its faults and tainted users, yes. But few can deny that it's a way to connect with friends, relatives, co-workers and more. Click on your photos, flick through memories.
Whether it's a movie about a stuttering king, a crazy ballerina, or a crazy fighter's brother - the common thread in any film that resonates is that of human connection. The power to make us feel.
Facebook has the power to evoke joy, jealousy, anger, pride, regret, nostalgia, resentment, love, hate – possibly all in the span of 10 minutes if you're going through the right person's photos. I've seen relationships destroyed, employment denied, marriages and births rejoiced over Facebook. Whether or not you think it's foolish is beside the point – it has power in human connectedness.
So it makes sense that a movie about Facebook would stir such interest. Thankfully, it's a well-done film that will likely hold its own amongst films like Network, the aforementioned Wall Street, and others that place societal shifts in a time vault.
All that said - I wonder if in 20 years The Social Network will pack the same punch, in a time when this technology will be laughable?