Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

‘The Social Network’ and the imitation American Dream

with 3 comments

Just flew back from the east coast after 10 days doing the holidays with dear friends and family, which was awesome. Watched ‘The Social Network‘ on the plane. Fascinating movie. Exciting glimpse into the ivy league start-up success Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook… or sort of founder… and about the creation of the company.  The 21C maverick rock star, kind of a today version of  ‘Less Than Zero’ meets start-up, fast and lonely lifestyle riddled with a destructive desire for power, wealth, sex, recognition, greed, stuff like that, all wrapped up into a truly ‘cool idea.’ I liked how ‘real’ and current it felt especially since Facebook is on the tip of our tongues. After the whole thing the friends all sue each other, relationships are shattered, billions are made and Mark is still lonely, hitting refresh over and over impatiently (neurotically?) hoping a woman will friend him.

I’ve dated this guy (s). No not Mark Zuckerburg, but that start-up entrepreneur guy, that guy married to his work, starving for recognition, wanting to please his dad, desperately needing to impress his x-girlfriend or x-wife (or eeeww- daughter), needing a few more million so THEN he can start his life… on and on. Hamster wheel. I didn’t totally get this from Mark, he seemed to be innocently obsessed with Facebook, pretending to be an as*hole though actually hiding and protecting that he is really a softie who just wants to be loved and accepted. But I have met this guy before and foolishly thought, at times, that we were in a relationship. I unapologetically loved them cuz that’s just what I do, clearly to a fault.

With Mark’s character in the movie and with the men I knew, each situation breaks my heart. It breaks my heart when love shows up and then is eventually extinguished by fear, addiction to money, power, slave to anything other than gratitude for the amazing gift of love itself. It truly breaks my heart.

Unfortunately I think this beast is in us all. It is inescapable, it is the imitation American Dream. Not what our forefathers fought for, not what Martin Luther King dreamt of, it’s this get rich before you’re 40 or 30 or whatever pick a decade, before you’re ‘someone.’ .. lie that enslaves so many of us. Before  _______________ can start in your life. Fill in blank. Complete with the messed up hair, clad in North Face outerwear and ‘f*ck-you’ flip flops…  Same as Mark. And with each of these boyfriends I have either watched them or dealt with remnants of them falling apart chasing that dream, many ending up with plastic love.

One had a mental breakdown + became an alcoholic (ironically one of his later x-wives contacted me via Facebook to tell me all about their terrible marriage), another is so emotionally locked down after his wife had an affair and the marriage fell apart while chasing the dream he claims he may never warm up again (and told me that persuing a long distance relationship with me still wouldn’t exceed his annual golf budget), another after pursuing me for years just couldn’t keep it in his pants after the divorce where his work ripped the marriage apart, another here on a very long visa (or American ‘marriage/divorce’) long enough to attend an ivy league school, make a ton of money or at least have us think so, ride out the American cowboy lifestyle boots and all (except after a hike the 1st thing he’d do was look at himself in the rear view mirror- not too cowboy) until he cashed in/checked out when his Indian parents roped him back to India for an arranged marriage.  Most likely all part of a plan that he ooops, forgot to tell me. But hey, thanks a lot for leaving me your … microwave… ?

Each situation break my heart. Separate from these men it is the infectious, cold fear that breaks my heart. That fear of being truthful, loving and graceful with each other. Instead we are dismissive, unavailable, we lie, avoid, quit. This is why my heart aches and is ultimately the driving force behind my ferocious hunger for truth and connection within my personal life, through my work, it has become my mission in life.

[breather]

Anyway. It was interesting to re-live the ups and downs of another start-up entrepreneur dude… this time on a screen which was much easier to deal with.  Besides addressing that the standard chasing-the-dream may include sex drugs and rock and roll, that seemingly priceless-pat-on-the-back from ‘ol dad and past women, covering how greed kills friendships, showcasing the genius geek as the new maverick rock star… besides all that the movie addressed something else that I have been thinking about for a while. Social media and where does it leave us.

In the last several years millions of us dived head fist into a cesspool of umpteen social media sites, landing for now on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, used to be Freindster, Myspace and a few others we chuckle about now. When Facebook came I started to see something, along with speaking at social media conferences on behalf of SalaamGarage.  Facebook in particular, and this is not an original thought, clearly taps into that insatiable, narcissistic rock star we idolize, infecting and devouring our precious minutes. That need to be recognized, important, loved, the hope that someone out there is really listening, that someone actually cares and is loosely a part of our lives.  And that in the end, no matter how many ‘friends’ our profile says we have, this does not by any means substitute a real live friend in person, or the friends we truly have, real friends, that we can if we are lucky count on two hands. And further, Facebook may actually be keeping us from being with those friends (not to mention a growing deficit in productivity), because instead of just calling them and committing to facetime (fyi: the url is already taken), we are obsessed with everyone else’s lives, making new friends, suggesting friends, racking up friends, being friended, etc. Ironically not really being a friend. And it is a huge time suck. What did we do with that time before it took over? Facebook has definitely helped me to keep in touch with and locate old friends, build a business, accomplish heaps of great things. But I still consider myself blessed to be able to count my true friends on two hands, roughly 7-9 fingers. No matter what my profile says no more fingers have been spoken for since accepting Facebook into my life.

Facebook also taps into the dark ugly beast of loneliness. How may of us flip though profile after profile, looking at one bad party picture after the next. What are we looking for? Why are we doing this?  We are lonely. We want to ‘be there’, we want to ‘know them’, we wish we were with them right now, anywhere but living our own real-time lives. We don’t call. Instead, we comment.

The movie ends brilliantly. Mark briefly connects with a woman versus his typical M.O. of ignoring her or dropping obnoxious, condescending remarks. Once she leaves the room he immediately looks up her Facebook profile, goes to ‘friend her’, pauses at his own creation and then does it. Then he sits there, in a super classy boardroom, in his version of a dress up suit (no Northface) all alone. After loosing his best friend, millions of dollars… here is the worlds youngest billionaire sitting there hitting refresh to see, I am guessing, if she accepted his friendship request.

Brilliant.

Click, click, click. Hooray for such a dark, human ending that begs at least one question: what was it worth?

I often wonder what it must feel like to be in the midst of such success, look over  your shoulder and see a trail of broken hearts.

Truth is, we have all been in both positions: the breaker and the broken.

It reminds me of what I told each of those boyfriends. Even some male friends in my life now, all have spent some precious face time trying to convince me (or themselves) that chasing the dream is worth it, don’t I understand? That “Once I get __________________ then I can _____________________”, and my trying to convince them (or myself) that is all a farce. Life is NOW. It is arrogant to think everything will go our way. There is no guarantee that all of this will fall into place they way we want it to. We just don’t have that much control. I watched each of them charge into completely unforeseen circumstances: a mental breakdown, booze, a divorce, affairs, major health issues, abusive x-wife who hits their daughter, another suicidal daughter, etc. This is not exclusive to .com. Their fields ranged from bio-tech, law, oil and natural gas to yes (surprise surprise: the Indian), a software startup. All amazing teachers though none of them factored life, life-ing into their get-rich American Dream rock star equation. Not one and yet they all ended up facing something huge that money couldn’t buy.  Most of their wives cheated on them and it broke them. The last man in my life… I pleaded… ‘Do not end up like these guys, don’t wait for your bank account to reach $X so that you can finally love loving. You have no idea what will happen.’ I had tears in my eyes because I don’t think he was listening.

A month later his dad was diagnosed with a very very serious brain tumor.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

Go see the movie.

Written by amandakoster

January 4, 2011 at 6:16 am

3 Responses

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  1. Amanda, I love the way you write.

    I think the reason we get into this ‘gotta have X before I can be Y’ mode is the lack of self-acceptance and self-love. We have an image of ourselves of what we ought to be versus who we really are and are perfect at deceiving ourselves into believing we can be ‘anything we want to be’, even if it goes against our grain, or the essence of who we really are. Everytime we push toward our created self image versus accepting who we are, we pay a price. Sometimes this price is… well, what you outlined above.

    If working toward our self created image gets us in a world of pains, addictions, isolation, desperation, depression – is it worthwhile pursuing it?

    The question then is – how do I know who I really am? How do I know what my gifts are so I can exploit those rather than go against the grain of who I am?

    This is a question one will either answer at some point between birth or death, or will not. I’m not sure who gets to answer the question, and who doesn’t – but I can tell you who has answered it by looking at their actions versus who hasn’t.

    I know I screwed up my own life trying to imitate my dad and please my mom. Why I got present to this, versus why someone else didn’t is a mystery to me. I can tell you one thing about myself though – I was never really certain of myself or who I was or how I became who I became from a very young age.

    I always asked myself, how do I know what I know, even when I was 13,14 and in high school. There was that uncertainty of being deeply lodged in my heart from a very young age. You could call it a void in the center of my heart, that nothing could fill it…

    Today I’m seeing that it is being open, honest, self-expressed, not hiding any part of myself, however “wrong” it may seem to human beings, that gives me the greatest pleasure, as well as being able to share myself and serve others. I still have my ‘selfish’ motives, but they’ve taken a backseat to who I really am. I’m not saint, but I aspire to be one :), if that’s even ok to say….

    I think God has a lot to do with the way I am today, my wife’s and daughter’s love, and my renewed spirituality….

    Again, how or why I have it – I don’t know…. But it’s a worthwhile inquiry for anyone to engage in – am I really OK with who I am however I am right now? Can I create something coming from the point of view that I am perfectly lovable and accepted exactly as I am now, instead of trying to change me? Can I NOT do the things _I_ want and still be happy and present in the moment?

    Lovely questions…. w/no fast answers.

    Martin

    January 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm

  2. Hi Martin,

    Happy New Year! Thank you for such a thoughtful response. To your point: “I screwed up my own life trying to imitate my dad and please my mom.”

    I do not think we have one single shot at our lives. We are constantly evolving… we have our whole lives -however long they last- to look at that, question our direction and receive the answers if we are open to them.

    Hope you are doing well! All my love to you and your family,
    Amanda

    amandakoster

    January 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm

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