Monday Mashup: Facebook Vs Backstory Vs Motivations

by David Miller May 17, 2010
David Miller attempts to mash up the mythology of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerman with a writer’s ethic of transparency and / or motivations.

Happy Monday, gente.

While working this weekend I tried to ignore the headline “Movie Reveals Seamy Life of Facebook Boss” but eventually caved.

The story was about an upcoming movie based on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and focused on the “seamy” depictions of him “receiving sex in bars, [while his business partner] Parker runs the business.”

What I love about this story, not the actual piece or the movie, but the events / characters they’re describing – is that regardless of what facts are true, part of what people are going to remember about Facebook, the mythology they’re going to create around it (maybe) is that it started with a kid getting dumped and looking for some kind of (most likely sexual) payback.

Which is a cliche, but also makes good movie material because (a) cliches are accepted / expected when there is a core element of “celebrity,” and (b) the image of the protagonist as “tarnished hero” combined with his youth allows the audience to (1) vicariously experience “naughtiness” while (2) still receiving a “payoff” vis-a-vis the hero’s redemption and “coming to terms with” / overcoming his flaws.*

Either way I doubt I’ll watch this movie.


*I’m not sure about this, but it seems reasonable.

More than anything, the article made me think about how everyone has a backstory and key events in his / her life, and how these key events impel people (or not) to do different things, make different choices. This seems especially relevant for writers and journalists, but it’s rare to ever learn about these events unless the writer or journo becomes famous / a good interview subject.

Still, how would it change the way we read something from an author if we knew the backstory in his / her life? Or for that matter, the immediate context?

For example, what if there were a kind of disclaimer at the beginning of a “flighty” piece on “20 things I wish I’d known about dating when I was 20” that said: “I realize the tone of this piece is fluffy, but I had to write it on deadline and the truth is, this was hard for me because I have abandonment issues.”

When the context of writing is a will towards transparency, an act of moving upstream (“Man is a river whose source is hidden.” — Emerson) I feel like almost anything–a user’s profile on Facebook, a “how-to” on ramp-building written by a 15 yr. old skateboarder, a recipe for pumpkin bread–can have “literary value.”

I believe too that this is different than the literary movement ofconfessionalism, although it seems equally facile to dismiss / criticize it with the same argument, which is (paraphrasing from Robert Bly) that it tends to shift one’s attention away from the “suffering of others.”

You could say too that (especially in America), we’re already self-absorbed enough as it is, Facebook perhaps being the greatest emblem and enabler of self-absorption ever created.

But for me really it all comes down to style, to the way the “user” uses his / her account, the way the blogger uses his / her blog.

Facebook “Exodus”

Which brings me to the last point of today’s mashup, the “revolt” against Facebook planned at the end of this month. I’m not sure how to feel about this exactly. It doesn’t seem “heroic” to quit your Facebook account.

The main emotion I felt when reading about this story (and also typing about it right now) is a kind of general disgust at (and yet strangely, empathy with) the editor / writer who chose the word “exodus” to describe people just clicking some account options on their computers.

I wonder how Mark Zuckerman feels about it. I read in the article that he’d had to curtail his birthday celebration in the Caribbean for “crisis meetings.”

But damn, even as I type that sentence I’m already imaging it as a movie scene. Perhaps there would be a parallel montage, jump-cuts between satisfied-looking Facebook users deleting their accounts and a pissed-off-looking Zuckerman staring out the window of a private jet flying back to Facebook Headquarters.

I think the most important question then: What would be the soundtrack be?

Community Connection

Are you going to participate in the Facebook “revolt”?

How do you feel about writers revealing their motivations? Does that kill the story or add to it or neither / both?

Please share you comments below.

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