If I had my way, The Social Network will win Best Picture this year at the Oscars. At first my money was on Black Swan, but The Social Network surprisingly exceeded my expectations. I didn't think a movie about a website would be very interesting. I thought it was just going to be about how social networking sites are changing the way we communicate with each other and all that stuff. But I was wrong; the movie is a great story about the price you pay for success.
In one scene near the end Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake, whose acting skills are a delightful surprise) is throwing a party for having more than a million Facebook users. While some of his friends are doing cocaine, Sean explains Facebook's photo tagging feature. "People don't just go to parties anymore," he explains, "they go to parties with digital cameras. . . . We used to live on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we're going to live on the Internet."
I've been thinking about that last part lately.
I'm not a techno geek. I don't know the difference between 4G and 5G. I'm just a consumer who thinks technology is neat. In the words of Peter Gabriel, I know what I like, and I like what I know. And being a painfully shy guy who has trouble communicating with people, what I like is the ability to use social networking sites to express myself!
It's hard for me to express myself in everyday conversation. Sure, I can make idle chit-chat just like any one else, but whenever I try to express something really deep or personal, I end up being extremely vague. It's one when I write things out do I have the time to really think about what I want to say. That's why I blog; it's easier than talking to some one in person.
I'm also not very good at going out and meeting new people. What do you do, just walk up to some one and say, "Will you be my friend?" With Facebook, getting to know people is a little bit easier. You can see what they like, what they believe, and whether or not they have kids. You may not be able to know every single thing about a person on Facebook, but at least you don't have to play Twenty Questions just to know the basics.
And yet, despite all the cool ways I can make friends without leaving my house, there's still that distance. It's not face-to-face interaction. I've made a lot of friends online, but they live all over the country so I can't hang out with them in real life. You can only sit in front of a computer for so long before you feel lonely.
I once saw a video of N.T. Wright explaining why he doesn't blog. He suggests that for every hour you spend in front of a computer or a telephone screen, you should spend another hour with real people. So I guess it's all about balance. It's grace that we have all these neat and exciting ways to communicate with each other, but without face-to-face time you don't get the full picture. It's like looking at pictures of the Grand Canyon vs. seeing it with your own eyes.
How do you balance online social interaction with real life social interaction?
2 days ago