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Friday Nonfiction Recommendation: Zadie Smith Essay on Facebook Generation

Zadie Smith provides quite possibly the most important binary attributes that characterize the individuals of this era. There are 1.0 people and 2.0 people, she explains. The 1.0-ers are folks like herself, slightly tech and programming illiterate. Then there are the 2.0-ers, also known as Mark Zuckerberg-esque folks. In her essay that appeared on The New York Review of Books in 2010, Smith dissects the ever popular ‘Facebook Movie’, The Social Network. She traces director David Fincher’s philosophical decisions when trying to paint the poster child for generation Y; complete with all the quirks and nerdy-chicness that glorifies this generation. But Smith catches his indecisiveness regarding the true desires of Zuckerberg. What were his intentions with Facebook? Fincher can’t seem to decide if he is money hungry,  painfully insecure, or a combination of the two.

Smith connects her own inner conflicts about whether or not she herself belongs to this generation while also trying to hash out what the value of Facebook is to all of us. Does Facebook help people? We seem to forget that every time we browse our newsfeeds we’re not just staring into an infinite platform for connectivity, but also into the desires, fears, and anxieties paramount to a college sophomore at the time that he designed this other world for us.

Smith’s analysis of the implications of Facebook – the effect it has on our relationships and identities – is perhaps less of an expose on the pitfalls of Facebook and more of a call to acknowledge the ways we have allowed our lives to be manipulated by supposedly important factors like ‘relationship status’ and ‘life events’. Revisit Smith’s 2010 essay to remind yourself of what the words friend and like used to mean to you pre-Facebook era.

Read the full essay on The New York Review of Books