So I just finished watching Adaptation. You know, the movie about screenwriting by the guy who wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine… Well among other things it provides a very clear lesson on social media, but we’ll get to that.
As a writer there are many movies that I should have seen and still haven’t. An article in, you guessed it, The New York Times steered me to watch this particular movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s on Netflix so watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again.
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So how does this movie full of flip cell phones with antennas and orchid references relate in any way to Twitter, Facebook, and the dozens of other social platforms that will be launched this year?
It’s in a line during the climax of the movie. Nicolas Cage, as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, is speaking with his movie-twin Donald, also played by Cage, about his brother’s girlfriend. He mentions that he overheard Donald’s girlfriend making fun of him at a party. Donald says that he knows, he heard the same thing. Charlie is puzzled since Donald had appeared happy even after overhearing the nasty comment. Why, he asks, would Donald still be happy after hearing that?
“You are what you love, not what loves you,” Donald says.
The line is repeated in a voice-over near the very end of the film and it resonated with me, particularly around Twitter. When you tweet you can easily become hyper-aware of your followers to following ratio. You can see who unfollowed you using certain sites and track who you are following but is not following you back. It can really become emotionally abusive if you care about it.
If you get sucked in you will begin writing to gain followers. You’ll only post what will be tweeted and retweeted. You will begin to lose what you were after in the first place when you signed up – to learn.
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People often make the mistake of joining a social network to learn from others. That’s a nice notion but you don’t need Twitter for that. Some people also join up to have others learn from them. Honestly, you could just have a kid and lecture them if you want, it will take less time out of your day than Twitter.
Q: So why should you and others really sign up?
A: To learn about yourself.
As you explore the views of others keep asking what are you finding out about your own views, how do they stand up to new perspectives, which ones are shallow and need further development, which topics get your blood pumping, and what should you be digging into because you want to, to satisfy your own curiosity? At what point do you trust your own likes and dislikes enough to be honest online with yourself?
There is a sense of freedom in that line that Cage delivers. It’s reminiscent of Fight Club when Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden says, “The things you own end up owning you.” The Adaptation version just makes more sense to me. I think it’s because it puts a positive spin on the importance of you and your views.
I’ll write some more about this but I wanted to share it while it was still fairly fresh. What are your thoughts?