The Social Network and our millennial audience, part 2

As Exploring College Ministry’s 9-day Movie Week concludes, Part 2 of the Millennial aspects of The Social Network. Hopefully it’s good exercise for all of us who work with Gen Y! (Part 1 can be found here.)

Hiding behind technology (in plain view)

Not only is technology an innate part of the Millennials’ world (as discussed yesterday), it’s clear it serves to reduice inhibitions for many members of this generation. The lives they live out online are surprisingly brazen, as they simultaneously hide behind and expose boldly via technology – be it blogging, texting, Facebook, YouTube, or other stages.

The Social Network highlights this theme throughout, and the whole course of the movie (and ultimately Facebook’s, too) is set following Mark Zuckerburg’s night of being “drunk and angry and stupid… and blogging.” Later, he’s scorned for acting “as if every thought that tumbles through your head would be a crime not to publish,” but that’s just the way many of our Millennial friends live their lives online, no? And yet those thoughts aren’t always true, either, and the movie certainly suggests that Zuckerberg found texts and emails to be his preferred form of deception.

The team’s the thing

The Social Network also highlights the important role of the team in the Gen Y world, and one of the greatest “sins” of the movie is isolationism. A “success film” for other generations might focus on the one individual who invented or conquered or innovated and celebrate his or her solitary accomplishment largely because it was unique. Here, the whole movie hinges on just which teammates would be / should be / truly were involved in the creation of Facebook – from its humble beginnings in the ultimate “team environment,” a college dorm room. And loneliness isn’t just sad in this film – it’s something to be pitied.

Many Millennials have grown up on soccer teams and are a-okay with going forward in a project or in life… together. They value a team approach to life… and that leads to the next observation.

Inclusion, invitation, and friends

If functioning as a team is a high priority, then inclusion is a highest one, and The Social Network may be more about this theme than any other. The first scene is about inclusion, as is the very last. And in the middle, Mark Zuckerberg and friends create a website that would redefine “friendship” and “inclusion” and “invitations” on a worldwide scale.

What’s funny is that for Millennials there’s a kind of inclusion that doesn’t necessarily imply exclusion. Sure, there will always be “exclusive clubs” and such, but this movie very explicitly circumvents even those venues; when everyone’s able to Facebook me and find out if my relationship’s “complicated,” then everybody’s rather included in my life (and I with theirs), right?

In this movie the computer nerds aren’t in a lower social strata than the partiers… and ultimately become the partiers themselves. Millennials want to fit in like anyone does, but the iPod-shuffle of their interests means they’re already included – probably many times over, in various interest groups and activity groups and social segments. Of course, this all means the despair of exclusion may sting still more, and many Millennials – like Zuckerberg in this movie – may seek the inclusions they most desire by any means they can.

Changing the world (overnight)

Inside these varied interests, Millennials have a desire to change the world – and a belief they can do it. But they also believe it can be done very, very soon. What Zuckerberg creates overnight in his dorm room (a predecessor to Facebook) riles up a whole campus; what he creates in a semester changed the whole world. And only seven years later, it has its very own movie!

For Millennials, this isn’t a shocking development. “This is how it happens,” they may very well believe. And they work like it, too… with Mountain Dew, alcohol, or other drugs (all amply portrayed in this film) enabling the work-hard-play-hard lifestyle they feel they can / should / must live.


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  1. Pingback: The Social Network and our millennial audience « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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