One of my all-time favorite movies is David Fincher’s 2010 “The Social Network,” the story of how Facebook started. It’s a brilliant film with exceptional acting and mesmerizing dialogue, among other attributes worthy of praise.
But it has a sentimental factor for me as well. It transports me immediately back to college. Mark Zuckerberg is the same age I am, was at Harvard the same time I was at my not-so-prestigious state school. And shortly after the film opens, we see Mark enter his dorm suite (one much more lavish and roomy than I ever had) and turn on his computer, where the familiar white-and-blue branding of the Livejournal homepage shines bright.
I, too, sat at my desk, tapping the keyboard at all hours of the night, multiple times a day, chronicling my undergraduate life for the whole world to read. Really, it wasn’t the whole world—it was ten friends who went to the same school I did. I filled my entries with inside jokes and complaints about homework and whatever shenanigans we college kids engaged in.
I was able to enjoy life twice: first, actually experiencing it and second, afterwards, on the internet, reading my friend’s different versions of what happened. We wrote about our lives with exaggeration and extravagance and often without discretion. “As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever, it would be a crime for it not to be shared,” explains Fincher’s fictional Erica Albright.
We shared. We sometimes shared too much.
Now a decade later, it’s quite unnerving to know that my Livejournal rantings are still floating out there in cyberspace. It’s like a time capsule waiting for someone to stumble upon it, unearth it, and get a glimpse of what life was like in West Michigan for one strange college student. But it stays up there (for now) so I can live my life twice, no matter how novice the writing or how embarrassing the stories.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I did that, why I bothered putting my life on the internet, why I continue to do so through social networking sites. Why does anyone? But Fincher is a sneaky bastard. The answer is in the title.
To network socially. To connect to each other.
“The internet isn’t written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink,” snarky Erica enlightens us.
I have published a portion of my life online. My interactions with others are written in the ink of the internet. Bodies are mortal but words live on forever. Words let us live again.
And so I keep writing. I get to live life twice, three times, twelve times—as many times as I care to read about it.