A.O. Scott is an absolutely brilliant film reviewer. He is always able to get to the heart of what a movie is about so quickly and succinctly. It’s incredible. His comments on the portrayal of friendship in “The Social Network”:
THE great virtue of Facebook — as articulated early in “The Social Network” by Mark Zuckerberg, the Harvard student who was one of that site’s founders — is that it is “exclusive.” This may sound counterintuitive, given that one of the seductions of Facebook in the real world is that it is open to everyone. Far from exclusive, the network seems to have the potential to become universal.
But of course what the fictionalized Zuckerberg means is not that access to his nascent network is limited (though at this point in the story it exists only within the already restricted pool of Harvard students), but rather that the people who enlist can choose the company they keep. The film’s viewers, even those who have resisted the charms of Mr. Zuckerberg’s company, will recognize the logic, both human and mathematical, that has turned the word “friend” into a transitive verb with a newly formed opposite. Every Facebook user, friending and unfriending at will, can travel freely in intersecting circles of his or her own design.
In the utopian version of this resulting horizonless network, status is not something inherited or enforced by others or even earned: it is something you can change, update and revise according to your own whims. You are who you say you are, and what you want to be — a citizen of a perfect Emersonian republic of self-selection and self-reliance.
Except that the mood of “The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher from a script by Aaron Sorkin, is dark, sinister and paranoid. The disjunction between Facebook’s sunny communitarian promise and these ambient tremors of unease — the paradox of a deep loneliness in a world of friendship — is summed up in the character of Mark Zuckerberg himself.
Facebook accelerates a way of pretending at friendship that uses others as identity markers, as ways of becoming who we are based on our associations. This friendship is a “relational ontology” of the worst kind, where you strategically make yourself who you are through careful selection of acquaintances. With so many so eager to jump on social networking as a succor to the church, we need to question whether social networks really bring us out of ourselves, or cast us further inward on our drive to self-determination.