Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prophecy Girl Goes to Seattle and Thinks Deep Thoughts About Social Networking

Look who was waiting for me outside the theater when I saw The Social Network my first night in Seattle:

Who's stalking whom, Gyllenhaal?
(Note:  This entry isn't really funny or Jake-related.  Then again, neither is my life most of the time.)

It's no secret to anyone who has read my book/talked to me online/met me in real life for more than 5 seconds that I don't like Facebook.  I haven't liked it since I joined in mid-2005, at a time when its "exclusivity" was a major part of its appeal.  I had to wait three weeks before I was given permission to create a profile, and in the 5+ years since (my bookmark is so old that it actually reads "Welcome to the Facebook"), Facebook has done nothing but change all the things that made it unique to begin with.

We, the users, are not Facebook's customers.  We don't pay them to use their services.  We are a data mine.  Nothing we put on Facebook is safe from being culled and given to corporations and advertisers - not our pictures (which are entering a phase where faces can be recognized even when they haven't been tagged), not our private messages (check that privacy statement again; they're not private), and certainly not our list of "Likes" which is little more than a digitalized bastardization of "word-of-mouth" advertising (that said, please go "Like" the Official Love & Other Drugs page if you haven't already because ISJ's page will be taken down today as we begin to collaborate with the official people).

And yet (as the last set of parentheses illustrates) Facebook has positioned itself as a necessary evil.  It is so pervasive that to not participate is to miss out on a major part of our culture.  I've had serious misgivings about it for years, and yet my profile remains, I have three (soon to be two) separate "pages" to promote myself, and I fully acknowledge that what minor success I've had with this blog and my book so far has been greatly aided by the exposure that Facebook affords.

The question for me has always been "How did we get to this point?"  Why Facebook?  And when did a site designed for college kids become a site for advertisers to market to the masses (watch any television channel for half an hour and count the number of ads that tell you to find their company/movie/product on Facebook)?  And why do we all just go along with it?

And what must it be like to be the guy who created it?

That last question is at the center of The Social Network, the highly-anticipated if somewhat-ignored-by-the-Facebook-crowd movie that tells the (slightly fictionalized) behind-the-scenes story of the site's creation by Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark (whom I will refer to as "Zuck" for the duration of this entry) was recently quoted as saying he didn't really care what the film said about him.  He all but mocked it, as if a mere movie couldn't possibly have any impact in an era in which 1 out of every 14 people on Earth has a Facebook account.  Zuck is 26 years old and a jerk.  Anyone who's sat through 2 seconds of him on 60 Minutes or Oprah could tell you that.  Anyone who joined Facebook in 2005 and watched the rules change without warning could tell you that.  But what the movie makes clear is that he's not only a jerk, he's a socially inept one at that.

Socially inept and he created the world's foremost social networking site.

The larger question then becomes what Facebook says about us, as a society.  What does it mean that we spend our time trying to replicate real life on our computers - through the sharing of information and photos, through "friendships" with people we (likely for good reason) never talk to "in real life" - and do we even register that what we're doing on Facebook is not actual socializing, but subscribing to Zuck's idea of what socializing should be like?

This is not to say that Facebook is malicious, merely that in a lot of ways it's sad.

In fact, that almost identical thing was said in a different context in another Facebook movie that's out right now.   It's called Catfish, and it's documentary posing as a story of deception, full of Facebook profiles and even some phone calls thrown in for good measure (to make it seem like the story has greater scope than it does... "See?" the filmmakers seem to be telling us, "It's not just an online story!")

But isn't it just an online story?  The filmmakers (two hot twentysomethings) and the star (one really hot twentysomething) rush through the "deception" part of the movie and charge straight ahead to the big reveal, spending lots of time talking amongst themselves about how their Facebook interactions were lies.

But the movie misses its own point.  The point isn't that these guys were duped or that people on Facebook (or anywhere on the internet) aren't always who they say they are, it's that the filmmakers documented the entire thing to begin with.  Social networking sites are programming us to think that our every move is entertaining.  We change our Facebook statuses or Twitter feeds to say "going to the store" or "got a speeding ticket" or "I don't feel well" and other people respond, as if this is interesting.  It's not interesting.  It's life.  And like so much of life, these things aren't worthy of being broadcast.  Weird as the story of Catfish is, it's not very remarkable.  What is interesting is watching these guys think that it's interesting.

Zuck comments in The Social Network that Facebook is a way to put the entire college experience online.  But you can't put the entire college experience online.  You can't put any whole real life experience online, and beyond that, why would you want to?  What are you losing with that time you're spending documenting?  Or, maybe more importantly, what are you distracting yourself from?

Facebook is inescapable.  It's how people contact each other, how they advertise, how they network, but The Social Network and Catfish both make it very clear that it's not how they connect.  Connection is still saved for the real world.  And a common theme in both movies is that even after the illusion of connection online, the real life equivalent is an entirely different skill set.

The problem, I fear, is that we're losing sight of the fact that there's even a difference, especially in my generation, the generation of the Catfish guys and Zuck himself.  Both movies make strong, albeit very different, arguments for the return of self-awareness.  I left the theater uneasy after Catfish...not because I was offended by it.  But because I could see myself in similar situations.  (In fact, I wrote about a few in the book.) 

But the whole reason I wrote this was to say that everyone should see The Social Network.  It's a fantastic movie.

And if you have a few bucks left in your pocket afterward, eh, at least the Catfish guys are hot.


Becky Heineke October 12, 2010 at 10:41 AM  

It'll be interesting to see if anyone actually comments on this... :)

Nothing Really Matters October 12, 2010 at 10:52 AM  

I have the very same bookmark!

You're also waering far to many clothes in that picture with is awesome by the way! :O

I many comment later about what you've written I'm so tired right now I can harly type!

Anonymous,  October 12, 2010 at 2:52 PM  

That movie theater is 3 blocks from my apartment! :)

Becky Heineke October 12, 2010 at 4:11 PM  

^^^ HA! That's crazy! :D

NRM, I am proud to say that I actually did remove some clothing for the taking of the photograph...but I felt that to take it any further would create quite a scene. ;)

Sam October 12, 2010 at 5:04 PM  

Oh, i really cant wait to see this movie, no-one even really knows about it here beleive it or not!!!

KD,  October 12, 2010 at 6:27 PM  

I don't have a facebook (I know, gasp!) so I can't really comment. All I know is that when people at my school learn of my social travesty, they ALWAYS give me this shocked look. I guess I'm really out of the loop.

Catfish was...interesting. The ending was meh. And I heard The Social Network was great; I'll probably Netflix it. There are those movies that you HAVE to see in theaters (and thus you save your Costco tickets for) and those which are classified as "DVD rental movies". My friend and I actually have a compiled list for all the movies we wanna see being release 2010 and 2011, separated into in Theaters and On DVD.

Vanessa October 12, 2010 at 6:44 PM  

Thanks for posting this, PG. I have seen it twice now & really really liked this movie. I had to see it again yesterday just to try to take it all in again as it tells you sooo much. I haven't seen Catfish yet as it is only playing at 1 theater kind of far from me, I hope to see it this weekend. I need to read thru your post again & really think on it to make a proper comment here.

KD, I am the same pretty much, but for the most part, I prefer to see most movies on the big screen in a dark theater. It's just my way of escaping my apt where I not only live, but I work out of. SN was not a movie that I needed to see on a big screen, (like PoP), but I couldn't wait for the DVD, I really wanted to see it badly, plus my 1st viewing was a free prescreening.

Vanessa October 12, 2010 at 6:51 PM  

OT here, I just put up screencaps of Jake with the HUMONGOUS Dill in the forum, from the video that was shot at the recent Le Fooding event. I found 4 videos of the event that were just put up on youtube today. Jake is only caught in the video for about a second each time. Here is a link to the thread on the forum. Check it out > Jake and his beard surfaces

Becky Heineke October 12, 2010 at 7:52 PM  

KD, I applaud you for not having a Facebook account and STAY STRONG. My friend Megan (who is in the book) doesn't have an account either and just moved out of town. SO MANY PEOPLE harassed her to get on so they could "keep in touch." I keep telling her to stay away (even as I don't follow my own advice). Seriously, mankind seemed to do alright in managing its social connections prior to social networking sites...

Re-reading this entry, it's pretty scattered (to use the word of the week around here!); I think I could write an entire second book just on social networking. I had a paragraph in here about MySpace that I took out (it didn't flow) and what a wasted opportunity it was because it catered to our creative elements. I will never get over how horribly that site was mismanaged, and I have a whole argument about how Zuck is the Bill Gates of social networking (and I mean that in the least flattering way imaginable).

Sam, YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. It is so great. And Vanessa, I'm going to see it a second time myself, hopefully this weekend. I also failed to mention my hometown JT love (he is frickin' awesome in this thing).

(And on an entirely different note, THANKS for the Dill coverage. ;))

coffeecat October 12, 2010 at 8:54 PM  

This was a profound post and I am un-utterly able to form a cohesive and coherent sentence. Maybe another time.

Vanessa October 12, 2010 at 9:07 PM  

I forgot to tell you earlier that I totally love the picture of you in front of the LAOD poster, that is priceless! & so for the million dollar question that has been going around about why Dude is covering his mouth in the poster, why were *YOU* covering *YOUR* mouth??? >;-P

Come on, let's hear some gyllenjewel that's so totally Prophecy Girl!!!

joelliea October 12, 2010 at 10:20 PM  

Good post. Very instrospective. I have a Facebook account and I'm using it for two purposes. One, to curse on things I don't get. Two, to share things THEY most likely don't get. =).

And I'm sharing this post to my Facebook friends. And to my Twitter followers.I wanna see when they're gonna stop posting updates such as "I'm having a diarrhea today. I really gotta poo now."

sumi k October 12, 2010 at 10:48 PM  

im really pissed because 20/20 ruined catfish for me. and they didnt even say spoiler alert, those jerks!

i'll probably still see it though, because 3 hot twenty-somethings is so worth my time. :D

sumi k October 12, 2010 at 10:49 PM  

*ARE totally worth my time. ugh.

see? im all bothered about it already.

Becky Heineke October 13, 2010 at 10:22 AM  

I put it up on Facebook (speak of the devil!), but I really do think it would be awesome if we all took pictures of ourselves with the LAOD poster. I'll bet we could even get them up on the official Facebook page... ;)

As for why *I* was covering my mouth, it was merely in horror that no matter where I go, Jake is always creepily right behind me, staring at me like the stalker he is... :D

Thank you for reposting this, joelliea!! This is the sort of thing I like to talk about but usually drive my friends insane by bringing up. (Seriously, "Becky" and "Facebook" in the same sentence always earns an eye roll from everyone who knows me.) And I laughed out loud at that status update...because it's so TRUE! People really post things like that!!

sumi k, OMG I watched 20/20 too!! It's actually what inspired me to see the movie, but it irritated the hell out of me that they not only told the *entire story*, they also showed about a quarter of the film. Grrr. (And typo totally excused because that Nev dude has the exact same effect on me...)

Anonymous,  October 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM  

I can't wait to see LAOD either Nice pic of you PG.


tankergirl October 13, 2010 at 8:46 PM  

Oh dear....Facebook is actually TOO MUCH interaction for me. Too many obligations to follow up. I've moved on to Twitter, where I relate in even shorter bursts, and with total strangers. You should hear me gripe when someone dares to call on the phone! I think what I get out of all this is a short attention span "connectedness," as I'm usually too busy for face to face (or phone to ear) friend action. I do thrive on that connection, but on my terms & schedule. Horrible? And I can't hate the targeted advertising too much, cuz that's how I was alerted to Leonard Cohen's 2009 Tour before it was sold out. I just don't usually click "over there."
BTW, I LOVED TSN! Great film.
Man, I'm going on & on. I should get a Real Life, eh?!

gyllenhaalisgr8 October 14, 2010 at 3:38 AM  

Gee, I like my facebook accounts (I have two; one personal, one Jake plus my Jake group). That's not to say I like the "official" LandOD page. But most of my Rocky Horror cast from over twenty years ago is on there as well as some school chums I've known for almost 50 years! But cute pic, PG! And...I just ordered your BOOK!

Becky Heineke October 14, 2010 at 7:34 AM  

Fantastic, gyllenhaalisgr8, and THANK YOU!!!! :D

sweetpea, thank you! :)

And tankergirl, I have a response but I'm leaving in about 10 minutes to go to Nashville for the day so...more when I get back!!!

Becky Heineke October 15, 2010 at 9:47 AM  

24 hours later...tankergirl, I think we've had 180 degree reactions when it comes to all this stuff! HA! All I was going to say yesterday is that the shorter my interactions with people become, the less interested I become in hearing about them. But I know that's not true across the board (and may even be the minority reaction considering the popularity of communicating these ways!). This blog is a perfect example; I INFINITELY prefer writing something of (somewhat) substance here and reading the comments over getting 140-character tweet-reactions or Facebook "Likes" based on the headline alone...

But in terms of more personal stuff, I don't like logging into Facebook on my birthday, for instance, and seeing a bunch of short, impersonal messages from people who only communicate with me once a year. So in the past few years, I've made it a point to send my closest friends birthday cards. I also call people more, now that I think about it... So I guess, weird though it sounds, the more prevalent Facebook and Twitter have become, the more I've rebelled and reverted to more personal communication!

There is a cost, definitely, in that there's only so much time in the day, but for me, I like having deeper interactions with fewer people... And I'm not saying I'm right or wrong on that because I think that really just comes down to personal preference. But as far as Zuck goes, we have given him unprecedented power over our daily lives and, er, I just don't trust the guy!! :) (Or most 26-year-old guys, to be completely honest. :D)

Sasha,  October 15, 2010 at 9:55 AM  

I got on twitter to see what Jared Leto and the band tweets ... got to know few ppl and we talk but none of those and not me makes regularly updates like: going to poo or having a coffee

I never had facebook until I got on twitter - and started hating the 140 signs ... sometimes its so nervracking.

So I have FB now with 4-5 people to talk to (chatting or PM) and I used it as a photoalbum like others do with flickr (but only for Jake and Jared pix and my fashion-addiction)
And I dont accept friend request from ppl I never told to come "see me on FB".

I still hate FB ... it is just bad bad bad bad bad bad bad programmed and I still dont get why everyone a) is on there (if not only coz it's plain shit) and b) why they expect everyone else to be there (when it is plain shit)

Other than that I'm only in 2 other socialnetwork-thingys - which I don't really use (first is XING for business/job and the other one probably only very few know is asmallworld which my dear friend dragged me in)

I really dont see the point in putting my life up on FB, my space, youtube, twitterpix, twitterupdates about going to poo... (LMAO laughed about that in your post PG)

I'm afraid I'm too old (30something) for this internet-networking BS ... what happened to everyones real-lifes?

Becky Heineke October 15, 2010 at 3:46 PM  

I agree with everything you said, Sasha!! I just put up the newest post on Facebook and when I clicked back to my homepage, I saw an update from someone I have not spoken to in person in probably 12 years, and what he wrote was an open-ended comment, obviously meant to attract attention and get people to respond to him.

I didn't care enough to respond. MANY other people did. And that brings us back to it being kind of sad...like for some people it seems as if this is the only way they reach out in the world. And I understand using it at as a tool (God knows that's what I use it for) but it's just strange that everyone has gone with this particular site...

I jumped on the social networking bandwagon early but I've (perhaps obviously) become seriously disillusioned. I remember the joy of finding people online that I'd lost touch with and then exchanging phone numbers with them, hanging out with them, reconnecting in person...but for whatever reason, that never happens anymore. There's no meaning to it anymore. It's just people talking over each other all the time and so little of it really be worthy of our attention... (I'm probably giving all of this way too much thought, but I find this kind of stuff fascinating!)

Sasha,  October 16, 2010 at 3:34 AM  

Hey PG, I'm so with you ... it really seems to have become "nonsense" to actually meet for a coffee ... why not just drag you blackberry out and chat while having a coffee - at different Starbucks near to your house ... you know?? It's just not right ... and it seems with all the communicating possibilities we have we are less communication but talking nonsense and bullshit.

And that is exactly what those sites should be: a tool ... to show some pix and (if you dont have a flatrate or have international friends) chat a bit etc ... but it shouldn't take away the bigger part of your spare time. And for some it obviously does.

If that makes any sense to you ... sometimes I hate my non-perfect english....

oh and (to me obviously) you dont give to much thought ... or we both do ROFL

Sasha,  October 16, 2010 at 3:39 AM  

oh one more thought:

I "met" so many ppl from all over the world - I probably might never meet them all personally, which is a pity for some of them and for some not so much .... but still if they are close I hope we can find a way to make it.

It is a way better way to connect ...

oy one more thought (ROFL sorry maybe that stops after this): one thing that "frightens" me about the internet is, that so many ppl try to be way more than they are ... everyone seems to have perfect lifes these days ... but when you meet ppl on the street you see in their eyes: life is not perfect ... how come it is on the internet??? I understand to "wear a mask" when you are outside and everyone can recognize you and you dont want to show everybody that you sometimes feel miserable and hate your life.... but on the internet??? why being such a show off???

Becky Heineke October 16, 2010 at 10:34 AM  

^^^ OH MY GOD this is what, like, half of my book is about!!! :D There's so much in there about identity and people not turning out to be who you thought they were. There's also a lot about people confusing the internet for real life and not understanding the difference between an online persona and a real life personality.

I, too, have "met" and become very good friends with a lot of people, all of the world, many of whom read this blog. :) But my interactions with them built up over long periods of time...and just like other relationships, they take a lot of work to maintain. Posting a Twitter update that everyone who knows me can read isn't, to me, maintaining any sort of relationship at all. I even think there's a HUGE difference between e-mailing someone privately and posting something publicly on Facebook...

(I'm not sure that last paragraph made sense...maybe what I should have said is that even though I do have several good online friendships, I didn't meet ANY of those people through social networking sites! :))

That's so funny you should say that about coffee...I had a friend whose husband used to play XBox Live with his friend...and the friend lived across the street!! Instead of meeting at one of their houses, they played from their own living rooms and talked to each other on the phone. Used to drive my friend NUTS. :D

Sasha,  October 16, 2010 at 4:16 PM  

Definately confusing real and internet ... which is just a pity.

That is the thing I luv about the internet, to be able to talk to so many ppl from different cultures - and if I get lucky building a (kinda) friendship with some :D

And I think there is def a huge difference in taking the time to write a decent email than to leave a quick note on FB or such...

LOL ... yep that is where we all end up - maybe not we but if there will be no turning point I see ppl really staying at home 23 hours ... not a world I would want to live in

Vanessa October 16, 2010 at 5:03 PM  

I really liked reading everyone's opinions on FB & social networking stuff. I have been thinking on this for the past few days & am kind of on the fence about FB. I like it for what it can do for me, but on the other hand, I don't like how it can totally take over your life if you let it.

& Sasha, what you said about "I see ppl really staying at home 23 hours" hits home with me more than you know. I work out of my home office, so I am here pretty much 24/7 & it can get to me really bad sometimes. & my work involves me using the internet, emails, & instant messengers, so I am on here ALL THE DAMN TIME. As much as I love that I can totally get to know others that live halfway across the world from me, (like you), it can get a little scary seeing how addicted I have become to the net. I know I need to get out & get away from it more, so I will be working on that asap. Starting with right now. I gotta run for now, so I will see you guys on the forum maybe tomorrow! Have a great rest of the weekend, everybody! >;-)

Sasha,  October 17, 2010 at 3:10 AM  

@Vanessa but you don't live at a remote place do you (like commuting would eat your half day or somethin)?? Or how come you have homeoffice all the time??? (We have that here too, but it's not very common [yet])

Yep go out there dear :D and hope to see you here or on the forum as for us there is no other place :(

NoSuchAngel October 17, 2010 at 10:52 PM  

I saw the movie yesterday. I didn't know any of the Facebook backstory so I was pretty shocked to find out the truth. And, as PG said, how much of a true jerk Zuck is. Like wow. I enjoyed the movie and I liked the idea behind how relationship status came to be a part of every profile. WORD!

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