For someone who strives to someday build tools that make a difference, and once thought of himself as a potential author, there really is no better movie for me. I love hearing about how great ideas got started. Love building websites. Fully empathize with the portrayed social awkwardness, and obsessive pursuit of projects and particular people. And beyond the technology, the writing is so clever (it won the Academy Award for best writing for an adapted screenplay).
For me it’s often a daily struggle between the day’s responsibilities with resulting exhaustion versus feeling inspired to create. Love movies that kick you in the butt and get your juices flowing. Hoping that energy keeps me going for a bit as I have some creative projects I’d like to finish off soon.
Beyond the entertainment on the screen, there’s another reason this movie will always be memorable to me. And maybe why I just can’t stop watching it. Walking out of the movie theater as I was bouncing off the walls and feeling like I could conquer the world too, I got a call on my cell that my closest cousin had just died.
I guess I should say my closest cousin growing up. We were inseparable as the two oldest kids. She and I spend many of my fondest young summers together, and always working as a team to lead our dozen other younger cousins on adventures at family gatherings. But something happened as we got older. Like one of the immature nerds right from the movie, I wasn’t really comfortable in the social life of an average teenager and probably would have been more likely to be blogging about the party across the hall than joining it. As I got more into school and my hopeful projects, and she got into relationships and married just out of high school, we had gone from the closest of friends to the most distant of acquaintances. It was kind of like seeing your best friend from school at the reunion but hadn’t talked to them in so long that you had nothing to say.
Regret and lost opportunity to repair that relationship weighed so heavily on me. Naturally you also feel that blunt force reminder about your own mortality, and feel the need to take advantage of your short time. I wished I knew more about her joys in later life, but felt so sad that the happy girl I knew growing up had her ending written in such a sad way. I wanted to go back to those young moments and tell her all the things as a kid that we somehow couldn’t talk about later. At her funeral, her family placed many of her favorite things on display and it struck me how much we still had in common and just didn’t know.
The other sense of regret I get from that movie, or maybe it’s just envy, is feeling why couldn’t I have done something that big. I always thought that’s how my story was going to be written, but my cousin reminds me it doesn’t always go as you hope. It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. I took my swings. I had some projects that landed me on the front page of big city newspapers and Headline News right out of college. I could have been on my way. These were the times for people like me who love technology and creating content to become kings, and like in that movie you see their stories all the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot to be thankful for. Great family, great job that in large part was a product of many of the near-hits along the way. It’s just not something that will be immortalized just yet. I’m still swinging for the fences, though, and hope I always will be.
Both being children of the 80s, turns out from her funeral display of favorite things that my cousin and I listen to a lot of Bon Jovi while not talking and wondering how their childhood friend is doing now. It’s popular rock melody, but what always hooked me was the optimism of the lyrics. Times are tough and we’re behind the eight-ball against all odds, but we’re going to make it together if we believe — and such things. One verse in particular that comes to mind as I watch The Social Network again for the countless time and can’t help but thinking… “as I dream about movies they won’t make of me when I’m dead.”
Probably not, we’ll see. I guess that line doesn’t quite fit into the characteristically encouraging and fist-pumping beats, but it still speaks volumes to dreamers like me and those characters on the screen. We just know there’s something big just over the next horizon — there just has to be. Every now and then I need to swap the DVD and put in It’s a Wonderful Life to remind myself the difference we all make on each other even when it doesn’t feel that way. Unfortunately, I don’t know all the details of the lives my cousin touched. She meant the world to me growing up, though, and despite all the circumstances oddly even more now.