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The (New) Social(?) Network


When I held my ticket to the advanced screening of “The Social Network” in my hand, a feeling of excitement and anticipation rushed over me. However, to express these emotions, I didn’t phone my mother and I didn’t rush to tell the nearest person to me- I tweeted. Then I posted on Facebook. Then I made sure to check in to the movie theatre on Foursquare before the actual screening.

It was only after all of the posting, blogging and RT’ing that I realized- I hadn’t had a face to face interaction with anyone about my plans. But is that a problem? Or just another illustration of today’s societal norms? As I reclined into my seat in the theatre, I never expected the film to help me answer some of these questions.

Much to my surprise, lead character (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t exactly a people person. For the most part, his statements were fast and awkward in what could be conceived as borderline autistic. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s clever dialogue makes the ride enjoyable, but Zuckerberg’s personality traits cannot be overlooked. The New York Times review describes this paradox, being that “the world’s most popular social networking Web site was created by a man with excruciatingly almost pathologically poor, people skills.” Given his social awkwardness, it’s hard to imagine Zuckerberg would have “500 million friends” without using the tool of the internet. But can online connections take the place of real relationships?

With Facebook turning our lives into databases, more and more “Zuckerbergs of the world” are making friends behind the wall of the web. I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but I have to think something is lost without that face to face interaction. In Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone, he comments on this new trend of “social isolation.” Because the truth is, we may be living in cities with a million people, but some say they’ve never felt more alone.

I know it’s crazy to think we could ever be headed for a crises of loneliness given our follower count on Twitter (I’m at 500 and counting…), but in a recent study by the American Psychological Review, 25% of people say they have no one to confide in, and 50% say they can only confide in their spouse. It’s a figure that’s more than doubled since 1985. I can’t help but wonder how many of Mr. Zuckerberg’s Facebook friends he could rely on?

As the lights came up and the movie was finished, I found my thirst to know the true story behind Facebook quenched. But how social networks like Facebook are redefining the term “community?” Not even director David Fincher could riddle me that.