How The Social Network Provides Painful Perspective

I’ve been defending Facebook since it first caught on, insisting that the knee-jerk reaction many Christians exhibited toward an apparent venue for arrogance and foolishness was in fact a logical next step for a culture that was starved for community. Since I first signed up for Facebook, I haven’t thought twice about it, even in the face of the more recent controversies about alleged privacy infractions.

For about two hours on Friday, I finally started to question my judgment.

There are questions about the veracity of The Social Network, and writer Aaron Sorkin himself has acknowledged that much of the movie simply had to be invented in the absence of any real knowledge of the truth. Nonetheless, many of the facts surrounding the founding of Facebook are verified by various articles and interviews. The sense we get, both from the film and more factual sources is disconcerting: The guy who created and runs a system that is primarily meant to help people connect with other people may not be all that great at connecting with people.

The questions and concerns we’ve been avoiding about Facebook have been thrust indelicately in our face by Sorkin and Fincher. The movie is a punch in the gut for anyone who (like me) went against the grain and simply trusted that the guys who run this thing were wise and thoughtful enough to make the right decisions in the right ways at the right time. Instead, we walk out of the theater feeling as if we’ve taken some kind of Matrix-esque red pill. We’ve been living and operating within a system for so long that we forgot to take the time to question it.

Indeed, the most horrifying thing about The Social Network is that even if it were about the damage Facebook does to our way of life (and it’s really not), it would be impossible to do anything about it such a truth. We are a part of Facebook, and Facebook is a part of us. Like capitalism and the media empire, Facebook isn’t going anywhere without an all-out revolution, and that requires a lot of social and emotional pain that we are likely unwilling to put up with.

And yes, like capitalism and the media empire, we can live in the midst of the system that is Facebook while being wary of its’ flaws. What we’re dealing with is a microcosm of what it is to live in a sinful, fallen world: There are a myriad of things that make us question if it’s even worth it. We spend much of our time fighting against it, ranting against its’ many shortcomings, despising the way it is constantly changing and gnashing teeth at the ways it changes us. At the end of the day though, it’s necessary, practical, and most importantly, pervasive. Like money, we would love to go without it but end up hitting a brick wall when we try to get any real business done. Like media, we would love to shun it, but we come across to others as willfully ignorant. Sometimes, in order to love others, we have to embrace a system that we hate.

I don’t quite hate Facebook, and I’m not sure if I truly should be uncomfortable with its’ CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. What I do know is that he’s 26, and that he’s probably a lot smarter than he is wise. If he’s anything like me at 26 (or at my present age of 28), he has radical ideas about things he’s passionate about that he’s anxious to apply practically. And if he’s anything like me, he’s less patient than someone older and more seasoned.

Indeed, my biggest fear is that Mark Zuckerberg is in fact no better or wiser than me. It’s not that I hate Facebook or think it will ruin us as a human race. It’s just that Facebook, as a dense collection of human beings, is rife for a profound display of unchecked sin. Because of that, we have to be especially on guard against its dangers and do our best to exploit its advantages. After all, in the end what we’re going to get is the social network we deserve.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • http://kaliko.rosa.deviantart.com Jessica

    Hi, me again. I just recently watched The Social Network and I too was surprised at the amount of backstabbing that went on. But then again, that was a movie (first of all, so exaggerations are expected) and second of all, Facebook became a billion-dollar business in only a handful of years. Cut-throat moves are sadly to be expected.

    But asides, I wouldn’t let that dampen your spirits about the potential that Facebook has in enriching lives. I have not heard the Christian arguments against FB, but I’m not sure what they are founded on. Every FB user has enough control over who they add and what they see on the website that you likely wouldn’t run into any offensive photos or statuses — unless they were that of your own friends and family, and well differing opinions happen in real life, that’s how friendly debates and deep discussions begin. I’ve had that happen on FB, but mostly it’s less of that and more of seeing your distant nephew only hours after they were born, or seeing your grandma/grandpa that you’ve never met in historical photos your aunt scanned. I think things like that make it enriching. I’ve developed meaningful friendships with good people I would never have otherwise encountered. I’ve seen old classmates turn to God that I never thought would, and that inspires me. It all depends how you use it, like with anything.


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