My latest blog post for Harvard Business Review talks about what The Social Network tells us about social media. Or rather, it looks at what The Social Network doesn’t tell us about social media, since the movie used the birth of Facebook as the backdrop for a business movie (or a friendship movie, or a law movie) rather than actually illuminating what the advent of Facebook means to its users and the larger world.
It feels a bit unfair to criticize a movie for not being a different movie, especially when the movie itself is very very good. If The Social Network disappointed me in its failure to address the questions I really cared about, it at least left me thinking about what those questions are and what a real social media movie would look like.
The social media movie I’m waiting for is that one that tells us something about how we live in a world of incessant connectivity, abundant information and permanent records. When it comes to tracking the way social media plays out in our day-to-day lives, Gossip Girl is probably more useful than The Social Network. After all, the world of Gossip Girl is a world in which your status is as high as your last flattering online profile, your relationships as solid as they are private, and your career or academic standing can be made or unmade on the basis of what appears online. Its characters consult the titular website as a way of evaluating their friendships, plotting their love lives or planning their social calendars.
Yet for all its accuracy in monitoring the way social media now shapes offline society, Gossip Girl’s has more to say about what we should wear than about how we should engage online. If you’re looking for a TV show or movie to tell you how you should use social media to expand or deepen your world, you’ll have to keep looking.