Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"The Social Network" and Public Diplomacy

Just saw the well-crafted film, "The Social Network." I was amazed by the sheer creepiness -- in the movie -- of the Zombie-like people, Ivy League and non-Ivy League, who led to the creation of this medium (I follow, by the way, our American obsession with Zombies quite closely).

Can you imagine breaking bread at a civilized meal (pardon the anachronistic language) without a non-cell-phone-interruption with any of these zombie characters (again, as portrayed in the movie), depicted as ambition-knows-no-bounds male Harvard/West Coast sexists -- evidently incapable of any kind of love for/intimate contact with their fellow human beings, no matter their sex -- greed-is-good-maniacs (again, as I interpret the movie) who are supposedly committed to "bringing people closer together" by means of universal "friends" via cyberspace while screwing them (their "friends" and colleagues), in the "real" world, in the worse way possible, and as efficiently, as ruthlessly as they can?

To me, "The Social Network" -- true, just a movie -- is instructive about the new media's limitation as a "tool" of public diplomacy.

OK, facebook/twitter can bring people into contact -- as does a telephone or cocaine at a risque party (as depicted in the movie); so do good old-fashioned drums, best of all. But, given the social media's lack of depth -- simply put, their limitations as a means of celebrating face-to-face humanity, contact which by their very nature these media encourage to avoid (Memo to teenagers: Aren't you glad that there's no bad breath from, or real pimples on, facebook "faces") -- as a way to prevent human conflict these media are by no means a panacea, as many commentators on this subject would agree. See Morozov.

I am not saying anything original, just emphasizing it.

When I think of Facebook, I think of the role of the face in Orwell's 1984 -- where the human face loses all its individuality, all its humanity. The link to my article on the subject, “‘A Boot Stamping on a Human Face’: Orwell’s 1984 as a Process of Defacement,” English [Journal for Russian Teachers of English], No. 15 (1-15 August) 2005, pp. 33-35] -- is regrettably kaput.

Meanwhile, I am citing this entry on Facebook/Twitter. Walt Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself."

But, in my suspicion of "new media," I feel in good company -- Plato was, after all, against writing, as it "will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own."

1 comment:

RasoirJ said...

Ah, the book to read is Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody," which seems today (Feb. 11) remarkably prescient about how social media helps make possible a street-generated revolution.