Loneliness behind the network

By Chong Lip Teck

US - Everyone is pretty familiar with this story: US undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2004 with initial exclusivity to only Harvard University students. In the following two months, Facebook account registration was gradually expanded to other universities. By 2006, any e-mail users could register to access Facebook. Zuckerberg had since become a billionaire.

You and I (Facebook users) have contributed to his success. Currently, 750 million people around the world are using Facebook to share their photos and videos, as well as update their status and thoughts. You and I are members of the community.

Zuckerberg's "process of entrepreneurship" was shown on the big screen last year. In fact, the storyline was not about how he built his empire step by step. Under the hands of highly experienced writer and director, the moral of the story echoed the outcome of studies recently conducted by scholars on social networking sites. It even turned out to be an irony characterized in the reality.

In the movie, Zuckerberg overrated his own worth and looked down on women with lower education levels, as well as less stunning achievements as compared to him. As a result, he was humiliated in the process of pursuing a woman. In a bid to retaliate, he designed an online game to humiliate the woman. Little did he know that it was the beginning of his seemingly smooth sailing but in fact, dramatic life.

The plot indicated that in the process of developing Facebook, Zuckerberg who exhibited a streak of arrogance took to heart how others saw him and wanted respect from them. As a result, he continuously clashed with traditional thinking and value. He relinquished friendships for the sake of profit and in the end, he lost even more!

Zuckerberg in reality believed that the film did not depict his real life. That was not important, though. The movie showed that behind the success of Zuckerberg, there were loneliness and desolation. Doesn't the situation portray what many "Facebook friends" are experiencing in real lives?

Recently, UK scholars warned that obsession with social networking sites had led to the development of an "identity crisis" and craving for attention like a toddler.

Certain "Facebook friends" feel the need to be "small celebrities", the objects of concern and admiration. They update their status all the time and share various videos and writing in a frenzy, hoping that they can receive "Like" from others. They are frequently chasing after "friendships" to achieve a sense of instant satisfaction. As a result, they experience a decline in their speaking ability and no longer know how to communicate with people in the real world.

In the movie, Zuckerberg must face his lonely self behind all the networking and eventually come back to the reality to take on the challenge of interpersonal relationships. The biggest moral of the film is, perhaps, as Internet users reduce the gap among them in the virtual world, they may fail to look into themselves and subsequently stay further adrift from the reality and feel alienated. After all, many issues and matters can only be resolved in reality via interpersonal relationships.