Facebook: The Anti-Social Network

For some, the cyber-world has tragic consequences

I saw “The Social Network” over the weekend, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Tyler Clementi.

Tyler Clementi is the Rutgers freshman who committed suicide two weeks ago, after his roommate allegedly streamed live video of Tyler kissing another man in their dorm room.

“Social Network” is the story of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, who as a Harvard undergrad in 2004 helped create the social networking site that counts 500 million members worldwide.

It is highly doubtful that Zuckerberg and Clementi ever met. It is highly possible, however, that Zuckerberg’s spirit was in the air as Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death.

Why? Ten minutes before the gifted violinist took his life, he posted a one-line apology — on his Facebook page, of course — for what he was about to do.

Yes, despite its limitless expanse, the cyberworld can be a small one; and no, I’m not playing “Six Degrees of Separation” here. My concern is with the tenuous nature of web connectivity and its power to destroy those who were not even born when it was created.

“Cyber-bullying,” while politically correct, is a feeble and woefully inadequate term for the world of hurt it brings.

Facebook, for example, didn’t begin friendly. Though its followers came to be called “friends,” it grew out of a nasty blog Zuckerberg posted about his girlfriend just minutes after she dumped him, according to “Social Network.”

From there, it morphed into a “Who’s Hotter?” tabulator of Harvard women (of course), with side-by-side head shots hacked from campus sites. An anti-social networking site, as it were.

These days, if a Facebook fanatic wants to inflict real humiliation, he “de-friends” you.

That said, try to imagine Tyler Clementi’s panic when he discovered his roommate’s treachery. Tyler tried going through channels, but channels, for whatever reason, could not alleviate his emotional agony.

For Tyler, the cyber-damage was so deep, so irrevocable, it outweighed his life.  And that is the saddest movie of all.

GAIL SHISTER, TV columnist for the Inquirer for 25 years, teaches writing at Penn and is a columnist for tvnewser.com. She writes for The Philly Post on Tuesdays.