A long overdue post about The Social Network, Peter Travers and The Earthquake

| Posted by Lou | The time is 5.32pm here in London UK |

I previously discussed my dislike [insert thumb-down button here] of Peter Travers' comments on The Social Network, and my like [thumb-up!] of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's response to him.

Travers actually wrote an open letter response to Gordon-Levitt in which he says:

What's "defining" about The Social Network is the way it shows a generation losing touch with its humanity. The satire in Sorkin's script isn't aimed at what you call the "cool kids," the "creative, non-narcissistic" users of the Internet who don't use "friend" as a verb. They are in the minority. Who's the majority? Go to any multiplex to see a movie — I just came back from Sundance — and you'll see a lightshow of iPhones and Blackberrys at every performance. Not before or after the movie, but during. The guy next to me (from your generation) was checking his e-mail and updating his Facebook status. No apology. No shame. He just shot me a look. Like I wasn't there. Like the audience wasn't there. Like it was just him and a glowing screen.

Overall I find the response to be without substance or merit - arseholes who use their iPhones and Blackberries in cinemas have always been arseholes and always will be arseholes - and barely gave it a second thought. But then 22nd February 2011 happened. And I couldn't help but think of this idea that Facebook is endemic of a generation losing their humanity.

The Earthquake hit, the mobile phone system imploded, and everybody in New Zealand and New Zealanders around the world were left wondering if the multiple people they knew in Christchurch were okay. (Not to forget the people less familiar with New Zealand geography just wondering if their Kiwi friends were okay.)

How did we find out? Through Facebook.

(My sister rang my mum and told her that my aunt, uncle and cousin were okay. Mum was perplexed and asked how she knew. "[cousin] posted it on Facebook". (Mum is always perplexed that the Facebooking members of our extended family always know everything first.))

How did I tell my many international friends messaging/ emailing/ texting to see if I was okay that I was in fact okay? Through Facebook.

How did people pass on the immediate and urgent message that mobile phones were not to be used in order to keep the system open for emergencies? Through Facebook.

How did an army of thousands - thousands - of student volunteers come together to create an invaluable work-force? Through Facebook.

How did people provide and find information on who and how to donate towards earthquake relief? Through Facebook.

So forgive me if for a second time I'm accusing you of talking shit Peter Travers, but every time I hear someone say that Facebook is making people "inhumane" I'm going to think of those few days in February where it became an oasis of humanity in the face of great tragedy for New Zealand.

4 thoughts on “A long overdue post about The Social Network, Peter Travers and The Earthquake”

  1. Love it! Such a great point.
    I still think people need to remember to live in the moment and appreciate the people they are with (not the ones on the end of the line) more... But I LOVED this post.

  2. Funny thing is, neither Lou nor I actually enjoyed The Social Network at all - and I still find myself having to defend social networks themselves as a fallout of the film!

    Scoob, I totally agree with you about appreciating the here and now.
    I read something interesting (or maybe heard it at Webstock?) about how our modern urge to instantaneously 'share' experiences deprives us of intimacy, because we take something unique and invite in virtually the whole internet population - which removes us from the moment.

  3. I think the real stupid thing is that there is SO MUCH to criticise about Facebook, and about the impact that social networking is having on "the generation"... but neither Peter Travers nor The Social Network have said anything insightful. At all.

    My starter for ten: I think what you're both talking about is a function of what reality tv started... it created an idea that nothing is "real" unless it happens/ is said in front of a mass audience (and by god, people like Peter Andre and Katie Price [aka Jordan] seem to reeeaaaallly live by this); social networking comes along and makes that mass audience accessible to everyone, extending to us all the false idea of "real" as being a one-sided message to the world.

    Obviously I blog and update Facebook and occasionally tweet, but I'm always surprised when someone in real life references something I've put on Facebook, or says "I know" when I tell them something as I never really think of Facebook as "real". I wonder whether people more generationally conditioned to social networking are the opposite and think that updating a Facebook status is the equivalent of telling someone something in person. And is that really such a bad thing if that's how people communicate, as after all it is still communication...