“I remember that…”

Here is the trailer for The Social Network, which has been out for a while. You should see it while the chance is still available.

I do, it’s weird, but I can’t help but feel privileged, because I do.

I did not grow up in the generation that bore witness to the first Star Wars, but I did grow up in the generation that bore witness to the first live-action Lord of the Rings films, innocent and completely unaware of the cultural phenomenon we were about to bear witness to.  I remember that very instance.  I saw Fellowship of the Ring on Christmas with my then-unmarried cousin.  Careful, spoilers (it was pretty f-kin important, culturally speaking).

It’s weird, looking back on a movie like that, because you can genuinely say that you bore witness to a cultural milestone, to people changing the way they thought about filmmaking.  In a way, that was how I felt about The Social Network, but not for the bearing it had on filmmaking, but on the culture as a whole.

On my 26th birthday, a couple weeks ago, I watched The Social Network, and it felt even more oddly defining to me as a participant to a generation, not to the film itself, but to the event that inspired it.  A passive, nosy little inspiration was I.  To the first whole half of the movie, I heard myself saying, I remember that. I remember that!

I was a freshman at NYU when thefacebook.com became fuckin’ thefacebook.com.  I remember Mark Zuckerberg’s little image of himself that represented Facebook for so long, and more than that, I remember the gated community feeling it gave to the young elite of New York University.  At that point, facebook had been opened to the Ivies, Stanford, and a very few other universities, in our cases Boston University and New York University.  After that, what did you need to know? We were a part of a very unique little club, and you on the outside, that was all you wanted; your friends were too, and that made you special.

And the thing I remember most vividly about The Facebook back when it was “thefacebook”, back when we as little peons of a massive university back in 2003, was the ‘poking’ feature.  Yes, the thing what distinguished Facebook from MySpace and what have you was not only its elitism (and, believe you me, that was very alluring) and its relationship status feature, but its poking feature.

I poked.  Oh, how I poked. Nella and I poked each other. From six feet away from each other, we poked our fellows from NYU, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and what have you; and we did indeed feel very, very special.

It’s been almost seven years since Facebook was launched.  Fuck me, I feel old.  I haven’t poked anyone since before I got my f@&#king useless bachelor’s degree.  As I mentioned several posts down, I don’t even look at people who try to friend me on facebook unless I immediately recognize their names. I get poked all the damn time and I don’t even feel the slightest inclination to reply.  When we look at movie marketing, in a greatear, macrouniversal appeal type of way, I can’t help but think that this is how we’ve become inevatably.  We’re a machine now, aye?  As the film points out, when the site first started, it had neither marketing nor ads, and that was what made it cool.  I remember that, too.

I’m not sure how true this is, because I feel like an idea such as this is wholly subjective.  As for myself, I don’t think I’ll ever really come to terms with how much thefacebook has changed us as a culture, because I remember being there from the very, very beginning.  I remember how cool it was, I remember the hype so accurately and truthfully portrayed in the movie, and I remember how it slowly turned into a monster that quickly changed the way people thought, the way people communicate with each other.  That last bit is the part that scares me, and the part I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with, or be able to relate with.  I remember the way people communicated with each other before facebook, and I live the way people communicate with each other now.

The movie was good.  It was not great, because it was scary, and for me, it hit way too close to home.  And maybe it’s just me, but when something hits that close to home, its almost impossible to give a real, empirical, thought-based judgement on the goddamn thing.   I know

it’s true, but that doesn’t mean I feel anything for it.  The only guys that ask for my number nowadays are almost ten years older than me.  What does that say, culture? What does that say for those of use who have learned to communicate in this new, non-commital way?

Everyone should see The Social Network, obviously. It is very, very well written, tightly directed, and impeccably marketed.  But next time you ask for a girl’s ‘facebook’, my suggestion, as one of those girls? Ask for her goddamn number, instead.

In my case, I’m still waiting for the guy who goes beyond ‘friending’.

  • I just saw The Social Network over the weekend. I first logged onto Facebook around 2005. I remember reading some articles about how the story was set up in a kind of Rashomon style telling the story from different perspectives. Saw the movie on Saturday and then finally remembered about the Rashomon thing on Monday and had an “oh yeah!” moment. First saw Rashomon a year or two ago, so I was well aware of how that told that movie’s story. The Social Network never stopped talking. It was nearly connected from beginning to end with non stopped dialogue. That was pretty unique. Reminded me of how the internet can be these days with the “Facebook” and now the “Twitter”. It just keeps on flowing. Some people write so much of what they think down online nowadays. That’s scary, and yet interesting if you were to study someone’s behavior. I’ve been desperately trying to get offline more. All these poor people spending their whole lives wired to the internet, it’s getting sad. The wiring of people to the internet reminds me of Serial Experiments Lain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Experiments_Lain
    Kind of scary how that anime has stuck with me through out the years. Anyways, I enjoyed The Social Network, but it was so much to take in in one viewing. Will have to watch it again sometime.

    Also, Hahaha! If you are going to MAGFest, I’ve got a group of friends going, maybe we’ll see you there! ps. Not trying to get your number, already taken, just saying just saying! lol

  • It’s funny – my boyfriend and I met at a friend’s gratuitous violence movie marathon – but we barely talked. It was only after we found each other on facebook and started chatting that we began to date. I can’t actually imagine how my life would be different without facebook – for one thing, that marathon certainly wouldn’t have happened without planning an “event”.
    It’s hard to imagine a world without facebook, which is kind of ridiculous. Everyone stopped going to myspace, so we will eventually move on to another social network, right? :

  • Fascinating article, as always!

    I’m about your age, as it turns out, but my experience of facebook went a bit different. Although I was introduced to it in the early years when it was only for post-secondary students, I didn’t really “get it” until around the point it started letting any yutz with an email address on. Don’t get me wrong, I greeted this loss of elitism with the same despondence anyone else did, but around then it started to become actually useful to me for organizing parties and communicating with home and reconnecting with high school classmates and such. There were nifty applications that my friends and I would use to send each other eggs to hatch into goofy animals and things and some SA Goon had designed an app that allowed me to draw on other people’s walls (I can’t draw, but damned if I don’t try anyway)

    Of course, I soon realized, as you did, what a monster it had become. Sure, friend-ing old high school acquaintances was amusing at first, but then came the realization, in the form of innumerable status updates of excessive banality (and exceptionally poor spelling and grammar), that I had left my home town to pursue my education for a reason (well, many reasons, but here’s one): I didn’t fit in with these people. At all. We’d had largely nothing in common, and let’s face it, nothing we could possibly talk about.

    Also, the applications that were once novel were growing into strange things that wanted you to give them money for basically nothing in return. I made the mistake of getting into FarmVille. I gave up after only a few months, realizing that it was both consuming my time and practically dictating my life’s schedule for me. I left my farm with an arrangement of hay bales resembling Mario so that I could at least feel like I’d accomplished SOMETHING with all that wasted time.

    But it’s far too late to quit Facebook, at least for me. It has become absolutely vital to my social life, especially since I’m currently back in that hometown, and most of my close friends are far away. I suppose I could call them, as I have most of their numbers, but the cost just seems impractical when I’ve got facebook and various IM programs (and Facebook’s IM ability…), with which I can (more or less) talk to them for free.

    But yeah, good advice on the phone number thing. Facebooking and im-ing can never beat the slightly more personal (and much more committal) touch of a phone call.

  • I went to a gig at the weekend with a friend of mine, and while queuing we got to talking to some of the people around us. By the time we were ready to go in, we’d all exachanged Twitter and Facebook account information.

    One of the girls in this group had neither a Facebook nor a Twitter. We looked at her like she was some kind of leper. She offered her e-mail address but I honestly don’t think any of us took it, instead insisting she got herself ‘connected’.

    While waiting for the gig to start and during the support acts, we were actually talking to each other through Facebook instead of face-to-face. I did wonder at the time ‘what have we become?’.

    There will come a time in this world when people won’t need to venture anywhere anymore; we’ll all live in isolation tanks with implants in our brains to connect to one another and the rest of the world.

  • Creature SH

    As someone who has no social life outside of the internet, this makes me ponderous, and I’ve actually entertained fleeting thoughts about the non-permanence of it all before. Facebook is what we all do now. What when it ends? How will I keep up with everyone? WILL I keep up with everyone? Are people just going to fade from my life because I lose track or have nothing to talk about? I don’t know. I’m not sure if I want to know.

  • Ivan Radchenko (aka Lardo)

    I never really got into social networking. Facebook certainly is convenient, with all the event planning and all, but I still don’t understand that poking thing, virtual kisses and other stupid bullshit. I mean, I’d rather watch a Nostalgia Chick video again than poke somebody. 🙂 And FarmVille? Thank God, I’ve never even tried it. I will totally check out the movie though, as soon as it’s out on DVD.

    P.S. Oh, and Facebook reminds me about my friends’ birthdays, so that’s cool.
    P.P.S. Lindsay, good to have you back at tgwtg.com. Hope you enjoyed your vacation and came up with all kinds of exciting ideas! Now get back to work, bi… err… I mean, I’m looking forward to your upcoming videos! 🙂

  • Justin

    Well, can I have your number then?

    (Someone had to make that joke, right?)

    Yeah, I was class of ’07 from college, so it took off at the end of freshman year. And watching the movie, their little mentioning of “The Wall” disturbed me with how excited I got to hear about that.

    I mean, I went to an Ivy, so I’ve been on it for 6.5 years now. And when I graduated, I moved overseas for two years, and without facebook, I wouldn’t have met 10% of the people I ended up socializing with. Part of me says I’d like to cut it off, but then it would be a whole lot harder to plan parties, shake my head premature marriages, and promote my own website etc etc.

    But I don’t really get mad at facebook, the same way I don’t get mad at cell phones: it’s just how we communicate these days. Someday soon there will be a new thing. Does anyone still fax?

    I’m smart enough to ask for numbers rather than facebook info, though (of people I actually know, not critics/bloggers I find amusing/insightful).

  • Brett

    Hell, I was in high school when Facebook first came out, and I remember the time before MySpace, never mind Facebook. I think that was the real dividing line – before MySpace, it was the Great Era of Instant Messenger and honest-to-god chat rooms. Any else remember chat rooms? You know, those places that the adults in your life probably warned you against due to the potential presence of pedophiles? God, that makes me nostalgic.

    In any case, it’s cool that you were one of the early adopters, Lindsay. I came pretty late to Facebook, only becoming really active this year.

    But next time you ask for a girl’s ‘facebook’, my suggestion, as one of those girls? Ask for her goddamn number, instead.

    You know, a lot of people have their phone numbers listed in their “Friends Only” Facebook section . . .

  • Here’s a cute true story: Two young girls – ages 12 and 14 – were exploring in a local storm drain, when they became lost in the tunnel. They had their telephones with them, luckily. They promptly logged onto The Facebook, and updated their status. “We are stuck in a storm drain! Someone call for help!” They waited until someone replied to the status update.

    They had telephones on them, but didn’t think to call for help themselves.

    The age of social networking, instant chat, Tweeting, text messages, and status updates has supplied us with something that we have always longed for: anonymity. People (and especially teenagers) can now express themselves outwardly into a vague ether, free from direct social conflict, still hiding behind a wall. Just look at any of the comment above. How many of them used their real names?

    Is this the way communication will be from now on? Largely silently and anonymously, passing notes while staring at a TV screen? Perhaps. I feel as people age, though, they’ll long for real communication, and the lame old people will start to interact in a more meaningful fashion. But maybe I’m only saying that because I’m 32, and I’m starting to feel my hipster relevance passing.

    Good post, Ms. Ellis. You are a powerful thinker.

  • Scottish Lindsey

    This is a very interesting post. However, I do think that a lot of the time, people add on Facebook because it’s less personal than asking for a phone number.

  • Still waiting for the guy who goes beyond friending? But you’re the Nostalgia Chick! Men desire you! If anything, you should have too many guys who go beyond friending!

    • Ivan Radchenko (aka Lardo)

      Of course she does. Problem is, I’m guessing, they are not the right guys. I mean, she’s smart enough not to fall for men who only desire her ’cause she’s famous. 🙂

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