Film Writing

Facebook and its discontents

Zadie Smith’s essay on The Social Network, Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg in the NYRB is smart, surprising, and well worth reading. Especially this bit, in which she speculates about Zuckerberg’s actual motivations (given that the invented dramatic motivations the film ascribes to him don’t seem very accurate):

Maybe it’s not mysterious and he’s just playing the long game, holding out: not a billion dollars but a hundred billion dollars. Or is it possible he just loves programming? No doubt the filmmakers considered this option, but you can see their dilemma: how to convey the pleasure of programming—if such a pleasure exists—in a way that is both cinematic and comprehensible? Movies are notoriously bad at showing the pleasures and rigors of art-making, even when the medium is familiar.

I’m not a programmer, though I’m hoping to teach myself some Ruby this year. But I’d love to see a movie that could actually depict the pleasures of programming. It doesn’t say much for Hollywood that the most earnest attempt at this so far was probably Hackers. (Wendell Pierce was in Hackers? Seriously? I must’ve been distracted by Angelina Jolie, though who wasn’t.)

But this part of Smith’s essay strikes the closest to home for me, at least, and perhaps for other people who live on the internet:

Shouldn’t we struggle against Facebook? Everything in it is reduced to the size of its founder. Blue, because it turns out Zuckerberg is red-green color-blind. “Blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” Poking, because that’s what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to. Preoccupied with personal trivia, because Mark Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what “friendship” is. A Mark Zuckerberg Production indeed! We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn’t it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format?

I’ll admit to never having figured out how to use Facebook in a way that makes me happy. I’m on it, I get sent messages through it by friends who use it more than I do, and I’ve been added by a lot of people from my high school. My page is pretty spare and I don’t add a lot of personal information to it. I’m sort of glad it’s there, glad to be connected in that small way to people I haven’t seen for years. Every once in a while I go on and leave comments and look at other people’s photos, but I don’t live on it the way I know many of my students do. It’s not my home on the internet. (Oddly enough, I feel much more comfortable with Twitter, probably because it isn’t really a social network.) Then again, I haven’t deleted my page, either, or whatever not-quite-as-permanent equivalent of deletion Facebook allows these days. I guess I’m all right with continuing to drift in the Facebook exurbs.

More links:

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *