Anti-Social Algorithm

With Social Network still winning accolades all over the world, Hardnews takes a re-look. New cyber lords have replaced the feudal lords of yore. This is a dog eat dog facebook world, where someone has to be top dog. The trick is to be cool, market the coolness at the highest premium and hit the jackpot with a new brand 
Ratna  Raman Delhi

The Social Network is on at cineplexes and is preceded by all the razzmatazz that movies are presented with nowadays. You drive to a posh mall, eat at the food court and post-meal plunge into a movie which is often an escape route to another world. 
The movie begins with a young woman and geeky young man in a crowded pub, having a post-modern conversation. The young man wants to be part of an exclusive social group and the young woman wants to be out. Post split up, she retires to her room while he sprints back through long corridors to blog bitchily about her. He creates a site where sets of twin pictures of all women students are uploaded for a comparative vote by Harvard males on female hotness quotient. The site is so popular that the university's computer system crashes. An investigation is held and the young man is suspended for six months. The woman, hurt and humiliated, gathers herself up with dignity and moves on. 

Three upwardly mobile Harvard males seek out this man, Mark Zuckerberg, with an exclusive network  idea for  fellow students. Zuckerberg goes one better. He ties up with friend Eduardo as business partner, while Sean Parker of the 90s Napster fame provides cutting edge inputs. Facebook is born in the year 2004. The rest, as we all know, is history.  
Facebook feeds into the social demands of the privileged young and gives them an outlet through which  to construct  their virtual identity. It moves quickly from exclusive social networking to a slow unfolding of narcissism and exhibitionism that preoccupies people who occupy Ivy League colleges slated as being among the best places in the world. This Peter Pan world, where you never need to grow up, is now international and intercontinental. 

Facebook has iconic status in our modern, cosmopolitan, consumerist society which willingly engorges on everything that is offered, advertised or flaunted. Yet, what is so different about this whole new world? The change is possibly in external details. We have moved from streets and alleys to the virtual page. The life lived outside of the electronic page however hasn't changed. Greed abides and so does the lust for power and control. Women are objects of desire, occasional arm candy and essential eye candy. Men with exceptional good looks, athletic or intellectual potential, don't really need to add on much else, let alone a humanistic education. They engage with very little outside of their own self-images and decadent lifestyles. 
Such are the new cyber lords who have replaced the feudal lords of yore. This is a dog eat dog world, where someone has to be top dog. The trick is to be cool, stay cool, market the coolness at the highest premium and hit the jackpot with a new brand. 

Friendships are en passant. Friends and relationships are set adrift whenever expedient. Codes and rules aren't written. Players settle things among themselves principally in hard cash. Money power runs this game and fame, reassuringly frames itself around successful lingerie brands and facebook frivolities. Losers throw themselves down bridges and winners take to revenge, alcohol, wild music, sex and dope. This is the new global world where Dorian Grays take to stocks and shares and pop goes community and collective welfare. 

The world has shrunk and so has the human imagination. Once mythical heroes battled dragons, supplied fire and water, ploughed and tilled land on behalf of the human civilisation. Today's reel heroes have no such agenda. Human potential has diminished and the human imagination is now self-serving, meretricious, cynical and facile. 

A different note is struck by Erica, the young woman who breaks up with Mark. She is a Facebook user but won't accept his electronic request to be friends. We need to believe that more dissenting voices such as hers do exist, even if they remain outside of Facebook.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: DECEMBER 2010