Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of Geeks and Fairytales

“What are we doing with our lives?” I’m sure almost everyone in this campus must have been asking themselves that after seeing “The Social Network”. Understandably, the story of a 19 year old college Sophomore who goes on to become the world’s youngest billionaire gives you an incredible amount of hope. You feel as if there is an equally successful, albeit a little elusive idea floating around somewhere in your head and you just need to catch hold of it. At the same time, there's the nagging thought, “This guy was younger than me when he started working on Facebook! Am I too late? What am I doing with my life? Do I even know what I want to do with my life?”, and before you know, it snowballs into a mini panic-attack.

I think we IIT-ians are probably more affected by this movie than most normal people. I know, the statement sounds discriminating, but I promise, I have good reasons for saying so. For these “normal” people, the movie probably is more about Eduardo and how Mark betrayed him rather than about Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. But it is not the dynamics of the friendship that turns into a full-fledged legal massacre that interests us. We remember Mark holding his “I’m CEO, Bitch!” card more prominently, and unlike most people who were supremely scandalized by it, many of us actually respected this guy for being able to get away with something like that.

The truth is, in some way or the other, most of us are more like Zuckerberg than any of these other people are. For one, as much as we try to deny it, or cover it up by our numerous other interests, at the end of the day most of us were geeks, and deep down inside, we will always be geeks. We might sleep through class hours, but solving Math puzzles is fun for us. Ask people outside, and you’ll know why I said we’ll always be geeks.

So, we see this movie about this extremely intelligent guy who studies in his country’s most prestigious University. He doesn’t have a girlfriend, he thinks people studying in Brown don’t have to study, and he isn’t the most socially affable person around. The similarities start to get a little uncanny now. When he thinks about comparing girls to farm animals, we appreciated the humor and the thought behind it. In no way did it seem as offensive as it was to people in the movie. Instead of viewing Zuckerberg as a far off entity, we identify with him, probably more than we have with any character in the recent past.

When Sean Parker comes in with his seductive world of parties, alcohol, drugs and Victoria Secrets’ models, we understand the pull Mark must have felt. We don’t blame him for not being strong enough to withstand all of that. He was barely 20 then! By the time the movie ends, the “many people” I mentioned earlier would have thought of Mark as a traitor, a weakling who chose to be advised by a person he barely knew and in the process betrayed his only friend. But we do not judge him, we sympathize with him, and more importantly, most of us respect him! We respect the amount of work he had put in, we respect his courage for dropping out of college to follow his dreams and we especially appreciate his dry sarcasm and disdain. How strange and stark is the difference! Are we becoming an unfeeling class of people who judge everything by achievement, and monetary value rather than by the kind of people we are? Or is it because the movie is largely based on someone very much like who we are, that we see the only the greatness and not the ugliness in it?

To come back to my initial point, the reason we even think that we are wasting our time is because we believe we are capable of achieving similar success , but we are sitting around watching movies and doing nothing to actually make it happen. Maybe we are capable, maybe we aren’t, but the crux of the matter is that we think we are. And that is why the movie is like our own personal fairy tale, where a computer program can make you rich and famous, and the most socially awkward person gets to be the king of the biggest social network.

P.S. These are just a few opinions, which I do not believe very staunchly either. I did not even realize that I had these thoughts until I typed it out. Feel free to disagree. :)