Yesterday i saw a movie called The Social Network preceded by all the razzmatazz that movies are presented with nowadays. You drive to a mall, eat at the food court and post-meal plunge into a movie which is often an escape route to another world. The mall with its escalator starts the process as you are transported to a surreal world of upper-end shopping and a palm tree paradise where you can eat all kinds of food for a price.
The movie begins with a young woman and geeky young man in a crowded pub, having a post-modern conversation. The young man wants to be part of an exclusive social group and the young woman wants out. Post split up, she retires to her room while he sprints back through the long corridors to blog bitchily about her and simultaneously create a site where sets of twin pictures of all women candidates at Harvard are uploaded for a comparative vote by Harvard males on female hotness quotient. The site is so popular that the entire university's computer system crashes. An investigation is held and the young man is suspended for six months. The young woman, hurt and humiliated, gathers herself up with dignity and moves on.
Young man, Mark Zuckerberg is sought out by three upwardly mobile Harvard males with an exclusive network idea for fellow students. Zuckerberg goes one better He ties up with friend Eduardo as business partner and Sean Parker of the 90s Napster fame provides cutting edge inputs. Facebook is born in the year 2004. The rest, as we all know, is history.
Facebook feeds into the social demands of the very privileged young and gives them an outlet through which to construct their virtual identity. It moves very quickly from exclusive social networking to a slow unfolding of the narcissism and exhibitionism that is a major preoccupation with people who occupy Ivy league colleges slated as being among the best places in the world. This Peter Pan world where you never need to grow up is now international and intercontinental.
Facebook has iconic status in our modern cosmopolitan consumerist society which willingly engorges on everything that is offered, advertised or flaunted. Yet, what is so different about this whole new world? The change is possibly in the external details. We have moved from the streets and alleys to the virtual page. The life lived outside of the electronic page however hasn't changed. Greed abides and so does the lust for power and control. Women are objects of desire and occasional arm candy and essential eye candy. Men with exceptional good looks, athletic or intellectual potential, don't really require to acquire much else, let alone a humanistic education. They engage with very little outside of their own self-image and decadent lifestyles. Such are the new Cyber lords who have replaced earlier feudal lords.Otherwise this is a dog eat dog world where someone has to be top dog .The trick is to be cool, stay cool , market the coolness at the highest premium and hit the jackpot with a new brand.
Friendship is en passant. Friends and relationships are set adrift whenever expedient. Codes and rules arent written. Players settle things among themselves principally in hard cash. Money Power runs this game and fame reassuringly frames itself around successful lingerie brands and facebook frivolities. Losers throw themselves down bridges and winners take to revenge, alcohol, wild music, sex and dope. This is the new global world where Dorian Grays take to Stocks and Shares and pop goes community and collective welfare.
The world has shrunk and so also has the human imagination. Once our mythical heroes battled dragons, supplied fire and water, ploughed and tilled land on behalf of the entire human civilization. This is so not happening here! Human potential has diminished and the human imagination is now self serving, meretricious, cynical and facile.
This is the sad part. Exposure to technology driven knowledge highways is still an empowering and enabling source for large sections of the world. For the founders and users of facebook these insignificant details belong to a world which exists way beyond the fringes of their virtual world. Hopefully, this is an ill conceived and incorrect assumption. A different note is struck by Erica, the young woman who breaks up with Mark. She is a facebook user but wont accept his request to be her electronic friend. We need to believe that more dissenting voices such as hers do exist, even if they remain outside of facebook