The movie The Social Network made me feel a little funny about ever using Facebook again.
In it, a genius student at Harvard, shafted by his beautiful girlfriend, goes back to his lonely room and writes nasty things about her on his blog and starts a website demeaning college women in general. From that he becomes a minor college celebrity, co-opts an idea from a group of privileged rich boys and starts Facebook. Law suits follow him for the rest of his days in the brilliant script by Aaron Sorkin (the movie flashes back and forth between the history of Facebook and the various depositions), which winds up at a time vaguely "the present," but before the real genius of the story, the real Mark Zuckerberg, came up with his plan to donate $100 million to the public school system of Newark.
The movie is in line for a lot of Oscars, and will win most of them. The writing, as I said, is edge-of-the-seat compelling, the characters quirky and contemporary, and, even though we know how the story will come out, and we assume much of it is truth, we find ourselves wondering how much of this really happened in this way. And we emerge from the movie not quite knowing, but thinking we do. Zuckerberg is portrayed as a serious version of some of the boys we might see on "The Big Bang Theory," but I wondered if he had mild autism or perhaps Asperger's Syndrome. Actor Jesse Eisenberg had me totally convinced he was Zuckerberg, likewise Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Savarin, Zuckerberg' friend who gets passed by on the way up. The character of Erica, who starts the Facebook ball rolling in the film, was made up out of the whole cloth--but Rooney Mara, the actress who played her, is beautiful and winning--she clearly has a big future in the movies.
Leaving the movie, my date asked me how many of the people I related to on Facebook had become real friends. I had to think about that because I could only think of one that I had met in person having only conversed on the social network. I have 182 "friends" which is a small number in Facebook terms. Many people have friends in the thousands. I try to keep the number at around 180 by editing out those whose posts I'd rather not see or those who simply never post. Of my 182, about 30 constantly respond to my posts and write posts themselves that I am compelled to comment upon, but I've never laid eyes on. Many of those have invited me to visit if I'm ever in their area. Another 50 or so are people I know slightly who comment occasionally. The others simply refuse to play Facebook; I don't know why they're on it at all.
I enjoy Facebook, but suspect that like any addictive activity, my interest will fade of its own accord as the comments get stale and I tire or outgrow it. It has a way of replacing real life with a virtual one. That, I would think, makes it very seductive to the retirees and people who live alone, but there is something unsatisfying about the experience when you have actually had a life. I have a friend who has written a hilarious blog post about his resistance to the whole idea; his post can be found here. The movie, however, is for the ages--it is a time capsule of a moment in history, this very moment.