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Life Through the Lens: ‘The Social Network’ and cultural rift

“We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!”

When the subject of “our modern culture” comes up, something happens to me. This 36-year-old quickly ticks to 91. My back hunches, my knees ache, and my eyesight goes dim. The Old Coot in me takes the wheel and steers the entire ship toward the jagged rocks! Nothing gets me fired-up quite like our modern culture.

I’m going to unleash the Coot for a second.

“Culture? What culture? All I see is a bunch of self-absorbed, developmentally stunted zombies walking around with their noses pressed against hunks of Chinese plastic! Culture? [spits on the ground] What culture?”

You see? I warned you. I’ll keep him buried inside and just relay his thinking in a more rational demeanor.

(Like many before me, I’m sure) I feel as though our culture has slipped into trends and established norms that are well beneath us. Things that should raise concerns have been normalized and are now our generation’s Stone Tablets. We aren’t in a rut… we have slid into the Marianas Trench.

Unlike the passing cultures of the past, these modern trends seem extra-alarming and increasingly-invasive. Instead of a culture based around family, around creativity, around innovation, around brotherhood, around relationship, around improvement… our culture is based around ease and comfort. Now that may not get your alarms blaring, but the Old Coot sees a problem: our culture lives for itself. Our culture has become isolated, distant, and disconnected. Modern technology forces one to retreat instead of forging relationship. The coronavirus did not invent seclusion, folks… we’ve been self-imposing distance for years now. When we log-on, we leave reality. When we get lost in a swipe cycle, we sacrifice the tangible and authentic.

The Old Coot implores you: recognize the changing-current instead of simply going with the flow.

∫∫∫

Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) seemed to have it all: money, power, groupies, position, influence.

The idea of facebook had very humble beginnings…it started as a way to punish a girl for dumping him in college. Through his selfish motivation, he ultimately created an exclusive social media site that would spread and expand to unheard-of popularity. From a reclusive college boy to the youngest billionaire ever, Mark’s story is not all flowers and gumdrops. It is a story of betrayal, jealousy, greed, manipulation, and unparalleled pressure.

From the onset, Mark sought connection. He needed people to acknowledge him and his worth. Whenever someone tried to connect to him, though, he pushed them away. His girlfriend couldn’t run away fast enough. His best friend Edwardo (Andrew Garfield) couldn’t gain Mark’s trust and was constantly shut out and left behind. It is a painful pattern to watch: Mark pushing away every person who might, just maybe, be a real and worthwhile connection for him…while inviting all the “others” into his confidence and getting burned.

Mark’s trap is very real and very relatable: it is too easy to form surface-level acquaintances and call them friends. It is too easy to have a conversation through text and call it a “heart-to-heart.” It is too easy to post a few pictures and call it a cherished memory. It is too easy to post a hurtful comment and call it bravery. It is too easy to live a virtual life and call it real living. Mark’s trap is our trap.

The final image of Mark is meant to be a warning. It is not about the money. It is not about the power. It is not about the groupies. It is not about the corporate position. It is not about the influence. It IS about letting people see you are vulnerable, imperfect, and in need. It IS about letting people help you, encourage you, teach you, discipline you, and improve you. Mark refused to let people see weakness and need…so Mark was left empty and alone. Do not let things cloud your need for others. More than mere posts and pictures, you are meant to share YOURSELF and to allow others to share themselves with you.

On its tenth anniversary, critiquing a movie like The Social Network is nothing-but-fun! From top to bottom, from start to finish, the movie is perfection at 24 frames per second.

The direction of David Fincher is astounding; his eye for detail and his relentless storytelling make the movie truly memorable. This isn’t the first or last time I’ll say this: nobody tells a story quite like David Fincher!

The screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is unflinchingly-interesting. If the dialogue was any sharper, you’d have to wear gloves when handling it. The development of each character is eloquently expressed through their rich and full dialogue.

The music for the movie is another Oscar-winning, stand-out performance. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross manufactured some brilliant moments in the movie, highlighting and intensifying the superb work of so many others, with their unique and haunting music.

The cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth) and the editing (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall) are notable contributors to the overall greatness, as well. The complexity of the movie is only possible with great shots and great cuts.

Lastly, the movie is perfectly acted. Jesse Eisenberg delivers the performance of a lifetime as Mark. His every expression can be felt. The subtle-looks, the momentary-thoughts…Eisenberg performs on limitless-levels. Armie Hammer is great as the Winklevoss twins – he brings an electricity needed in those antagonistic roles. Justin Timberlake is surprisingly good as Sean Parker. His anxiety and arrogance are tough to portray, but Timberlake never misses a beat. Andrew Garfield is heart-breaking as Edwardo…Mark’s one friend…his only friend.

Masterpiece. Is that selling it hard enough?

***

REPORT CARD: The Social Network

Grade: A+ A parable for our modern-predicament

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