In David Fincher’s The Social Network, Justin Timberlake’s character (Sean Parker) makes a remark that should stand out to each and everyone of us; “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” In 2008, according to Dave Evans (2011), the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people on Earth. Based on this statistic, it is easy to deduce that humanity has entered a new era. This is the era in which Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter of The Social Network, was referring to. This is the era in which people “live on the internet” and it owes itself to the concept of Social Networking. Social Networking can simply be defined as an online community on a shared website. At the height of this social revolution, it’s important to ask if we are alienating ourselves from the world around us. Some may believe humanity is now connected through the Internet, however even though this may be somewhat true, the internet can be very detrimental to one’s social and communication skills. The illusion of a “social” network is driving this alienation, as the user forgets that they are undergoing a singular experience. This addictive experience replaces “real” interaction, ultimately leaving us alone.
Mark Zuckerberg, as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, is the king of social networking. Zuckerberg is known as the inventor of Facebook, which is the most popular social media site in the world. Last year, as reported by CBC News, Facebook hit the one billion user milestone. On the same day, Zuckerberg posted the company’s first video advertisement, titled “The Things That Connect Us”. Interestingly enough, Mark Zuckerberg knows, from first hand experience, how alienated he became as a result of Facebook. The film’s tagline states “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”, but the truth is that Zuckerberg lost all his friends because of his creation. Arguably, he traded them in for his accomplishments. Regardless, it became an addiction for Zuckerberg; an addiction that began a downward trajectory. While the average user’s experiences are vastly different from Mark Zuckerberg’s, there is some truth behind the comparison.
Larry D. Rosen, Ph. D, a psychology professor at California State University, conducted research in study of the effects of social media. As reported by The Guardian, Rosen states that, “Everybody knows that what you write is public, but because there’s a screen in front of you, you feel somewhat anonymous.” The effects of this anonymity are primarily negative, according to the research. Narcissism, or an obsession with the self, was a dominant finding within teen subjects. The social repercussions of this are that the affected teens isolate themselves in situations of “real” interaction.
Referring back to The Social Network, it isn’t too surprising that Zuckerberg’s creation reflects its creator. Mark Zuckerberg was not necessarily a social person. He never had a large group of friends, and was only trying to join the Phoenix club because it leads to a better life (rather than the usual social factors that influence one into clubs or fraternities). As a result of his socially awkward personality (as evident in the opening conversation with his girlfriend), he created a means to communicate and interact with people which required no authentic interaction. As a result, over one billion users have succumb to this “inauthentic” means of interaction.
At the end of The Social Network, Zuckerberg is left in a conference room alone, overlooking his ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page. The juxtaposition of an alienated Zuckerberg provokes one of the themes of Fincher’s film. While the film is telling the tale of Zuckerberg’s financial success, it also makes a statement about the social condition that the 21st century has embraced. While five hundred million users may have been “connected” by the end of the film, the imagery implies that these users are all experiencing a similar alienation. Five hundred million users are alone, together.
Evans, Dave. “How the Next Evolution of the Internet Is Changing Everything.” The Internet of Things 01 (2011): n. pag. Cisco. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.
“Facebook Tops 1 Billion Users.” CBC News. N.p., 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/10/04/facebook-billion-users.html>.
The Social Network. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Jesse Eisenberg. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2011. Film.
Turgeon, Jordan. “How Facebook And Social Media Affect The Minds Of Generation Next.” The Huffington Post. AOL Lifestyle, 9 Oct. 2011. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/09/how-facebook-and-social-m_n_921905.html#s324841&title=Narcissism>.