Wednesday, 4 April 2012

What We Can Learn From Facebook

The story of Facebook and its rise and rise and rise fascinates. Most success stories and personal achievements inspire, but this one is different.

That has only deepened over the last week as I received The Social Network on rental and have watched it four times. That includes 2 x film watch, 1 x with David Fincher commentary and 1 x with Aaron Sorkin & cast commentary.

Even after four watches, I am more drawn to and compelled by the film than ever - as well as the origin of Facebook's success story, filmmaking, the industry, business and people in general.

Ultimately it's about people: their personalities and desires; their talents and flaws; their failures and achievements. Everyone is the same under the surface but different and fascinating in their construct and actions.

As writers, the more we experience, observe and learn about people the more informed, realistic and powerful our writing becomes.

Facebook's Success 

Ultimately what I feel the success of Facebook boils down to is that it successfully tapped into a fundamental human need. One that is ever present and that people consciously or unconsciously strive for daily:

To feel important - be important to others and to matter. 

We all have the need to feel important in our everyday lives whether online or offline. If we don't get that sense of importance within relationships, friends, family, community, society, peers, school, college, work, profession, and within the world, then elements break down and life can get pretty miserable and leave us unfulfilled.

However, with Facebook you get the opportunity to feel important infinitely each day with every private message, comment, like, friend add, request, tag, share and so on. You get your own webpage to express yourself and status updates to inform people what you're up to, share your personality, interests and opinions. As well as being kept in the loop on what is going on everywhere else.

What Can We Learn As Writers? 

At the core of human beings there is a need to feel important and be important to others in daily life. This may come in the form of love, affection, money, respect, status, acceptance, friendship, and so on.

A gaping void, weakness, over-abundance or loss in one area is usually what brings a story into life, as a person is striving for something they don't have and/or is affected by another's pursuit in doing so. Often the outcome will make them feel important within the scheme of things and/or to someone, or will fail miserably.

This matter of how a person goes about getting their perceived worth and importance in life is determined by their upbringing and past, which is also informed by their current environment and personality. This inherently - directly or indirectly - causes a lot of drama and conflict.

That is what we like.

Keeping this in mind will help us to understand our characters and make them human in our writing.

How do your characters get or fail to get their importance in life, how has that affected them and what are they willing to do to get what they want/need - that is the question(s). 

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