How It Feels On the Outside – or Wanting Erica

The Social Network is a film about how it feels to be on the outside premised on an irony that the higher up the social ladder you go the more visible those borders of ‘in’ or ‘out’ seem to become. Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard when he came to the idea of setting up a digitally networked social group that mirrored campus life. So by most people’s standard he was already not doing too badly, but Zuckerberg wanted more. He wanted his head to be noticed above ordinary tide-line of Ivy League high achievers. One way was to gain entry into the most exclusive Harvard club reserved for connected, moneyed, athletic, über-achievers. As an ordinary human, unmoneyed, computer science nerd this was unlikely. He had to find another way to distinguished him self and it is this egoistic impulse that drives him not only to destroy his only two good relationship [best friend and girlfriend] and eventually earn him the accolade of youngest ever billionaire it also fuels the very binary, meta-coded heartbeat that FB exists by: It’s contemporary status anxiety writ large and in public. The film’s log line declares that you don’t get 500 million friends without making a few enemies, but these personal consequences are no joke when those enemies were once your only true friends. What use all those virtual millions then? In many ways the Zuckerberg we see here is the epitome of an anti-American hero. He doesn’t stand, or even claim to stand, for anything but himself and this is an image of America we seldom ever see in [American] films, but one perhaps that is familiar to anyone who looks American society though any other lens. This contemporary American is individualistic, shaped by the dominant Competition Theory ideology, he sets out to reinvent himself not for some greater good but because he’s tired of feeling on the outside. He successfully transforms his social status but his inner status remains unchanged. He still sees himself as the socially awkward, loveless individual he saw himself as before. Sorkin’s script and Fincher’s direction effectively capture the exhilaration of youth encountering the world from the unique social and technological vantage points of our emerging 21st century age. A time and place unlike any moment in history, as all moments or course are. Event race fast and global. The figures – FB membership, company net worth, litigation settlements – are stratospheric, astronomical and the adrenaline rush of being at the epicentre of a brand new locus of social, economic and cultural gravity is palpable. The view from there is, without a doubt, exhilarating. But as with all highs a come down must follow: A time to go home, close the door and be with ones you are close too. The films final image of Zuckerberg sitting alone in a glossy lawyer boardroom refreshing his FB page every few seconds to see if his ex-girlfriend has confirmed his friend request is a poignant one. If there is no one left to go home too after your meteoric ride to the top of the social status-sphere than perhaps you have to ask yourself what have you really achieved? Zuckerberg achieved notoriety; he got him self noticed, fabulously so; he succeeded in creating a hugely successful business and earned himself a uniquely exclusive membership of the most exclusive club in the world [youngest billionaire] but the Zuckerberg of The Social Network still can’t join the one he most wants: To love and be loved in return.

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