The Social Network, the new film chronicling the rise of Facebook and its founder Mark Zucherberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), indicates that the real origin of the international social-networking phenomenon was just a simple desire for one man to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend.
Facebook has revolutionized the way we connect with one another. One character in the movie even contextualizes the evolution: “We lived on farms. We lived in cities. And now we live on the Internet.”
But at the heart of it all, our increasingly socially-networked world comes down to a relationship between two people.
In the film, Mark Zucherberg falls the hardest when he loses sight of the relationships around him: his Harvard classmates, his roommates, and his best friends (and if true, a sad irony for the person who has helped to re-define the word friend, turning it from a noun to a verb). His experience is a warning to all of us who use social networking to build and maintain relationships.
As I noted in my review of The Social Network, a movie like this challenges us to take greater responsibility for our online community. For many of us, we can often scroll past the status updates of our “friends” like strolling past an aisle of soup cans in the grocery store. What does this mean for the value and importance of the friends in our lives?
I am reminded that I had to accept or request every one of my online “friends” one at a time. Each one of those connections stem from a real-life relationship between two people. But as my network grows, I can easily forget the bridge that exists between each of those bonds.
What I am challenged to do, especially after seeing The Social Network, is to use Facebook as an opportunity to go deeper with my online friendships rather than to make them more shallow. I must continue to ask myself: How can I be the face of Christ to all those with whom I am “friended”?
How can you use social networking to build rather than break down the relationships in your life? What can you do to make Facebook a place where the Christian virtues of compassion, love, and respect are practiced en masse? What does a movie like this challenge Catholic singles to do about our online culture today?