Refresh Refresh Refresh: The Most Important Film Scene of the Decade So Far (To Me)
The Social Network is now a couple of years old, and sits in the period where discussing it seems out-of-date, rather than the equivalent of presenting on argument on, say, Casablanca. It’s too soon to call it a classic and talk about it from that perspective, but in a year and a half the film isn’t as relevant in the fast-paced digital age. There was one scene in the movie though, that never got its proper share of attention. People looked at Eisenberg’s performance, the technology used for the Winklevoss twins, or the discrepancies between the truth of the story and the fiction used to make it entertaining. However, I believe the closing scene of The Social Network says more about human nature, especially in the context of the Internet generation, than any other thing I’ve read, listened to, or seen in the past few years.
The scene in question concerns Mark Zuckerberg, after being sued by his ex-best friend and having to settle out of court. He’s alone in a room at the courthouse and sits at his computer after being told he’s trying too hard to be an asshole. He immediately pulls up his Facebook page and friend requests the girl who broke up with him in the movie’s opening sequence (the girl being completely fictional). He clicks refresh. He then clicks refresh again. And again. And so on. Fade to black. The film purports that the reason Zuckerberg was driven to create one of the most successful websites of all time stemmed from his need to impress the one person he ever truly cared about. His passion didn’t come from within, it came from an external source. That external source just happened to be a girl.
Alone in a room, hopelessly clicking the refresh button, one of the richest men in the world seemed no better than a pimply teen in his basement. The movie seems to argue that there is no significant difference between the two. The lonely teenager takes his disappointment and channels it into a life of web-browsing and sadness. Zuckerberg found the deficit in his life, and tried his damndest to fix it. The deficiency wasn’t about something he couldn’t find in himself, some personal goal he needed to accomplish. He was lacking a girl. Whether he loved this specific girl or needed a companion in general may be up for debate. Perhaps he needed what she represented – an easier period in his life unmarred by betrayal. Either way, he needed something that he could never have, and in the age of the internet, with every piece of art, technology and information at our fingertips, we can’t stand the thought of not getting what we want. This may come from a place of first-world entitlement, but it also comes from the ways of human nature. The more we get, the more we want what we can never have.
The girl probably wouldn’t have fixed Zuckerberg’s problems. He would most likely continue to feel unfulfilled to a certain degree based on his own personal philosophies. Perhaps it is the longing that is the most important part. The carrot won’t fill us up, but we’ll follow the stick to the ends of the earth. Eventually, maybe, if we try hard enough, and improve ourselves and make millions of dollars, we’ll achieve that external goal that seemed so far out of reach. And even if we don’t, we must keep trying, we must keep hitting refresh, because if do not, we are even more lost than previously imagined. If Zuckerberg had given up, we would not have Facebook, he would not have success, and he would still not have her. We must keep taking steps to fight for that girl or that boy or whatever it may be, even if that attempt is something as simple as writing an article about a movie that came out two years ago. Maybe she’ll notice this.