Thursday, November 4, 2010

Untold stories of social media

Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter but also a host of others, are changing the way we live, learn and communicate.

Facebook claims 500 million active users; on any day, half of them log on.

That’s a lot of users for a six-year-old system, a lot of users and a lot of stories.

Odd, then, that nobody has yet told the Facebook story in a really engaging way.

The movie The Social Network focuses tightly on Mark Zuckerberg, the nerdy Harvard student and entrepreneur who started it all and became the world’s youngest billionaire after surviving the usual lawsuits.

But the movie fails to tell even one story about a Facebook user whose life has been changed by the medium.

Catfish is a bit better. A self-indulgent New Yorker goes looking for love on Facebook and finds that all is not as it seems.

But the unbelievable, unsympathetic protagonist and the annoying pixilated transitions suck much of the life out of this one. Bring back star wipes!

Searching for a good story about the effects of new media, I fell for a review by Hal Espen in the New York Times of a book about the Washington Post, the first American newspaper to take online news seriously and invest seriously in it. Espen proclaims:

This excruciating, suspenseful inter­regnum between the dying of print prosperity and the rise of minimally commensurate digital profits is itself a huge story, and the version playing out at The Washington Post has been singularly dramatic.

But Morning Miracle: Inside the Washington Post; A Great Newspaper Fights For Its Life by Dave Kindred turns out to be a disappointing sentimental tour through an old-fashioned newsroom.

So come on, writers and critics. It’s time to prophesize with your pen.