'Why I'm Not on Facebook': Woodstock Review

Courtesy of Why I'm Not on Facebook
You'll think twice before accepting that next friend request

Brant Pinvidic's personal documentary explores the sociological ramifications of the world's most popular social networking site

I'm on Facebook. You're on Facebook. Jesus is on Facebook. Even dead people are on Facebook. Perhaps the only person who isn't is Brant Pinvidic, who explains the reasons for his not joining the world's most popular social networking site in his rambling documentary. Discursively examining numerous aspects of the phenomenon through a particularly personal prism, Why I'm Not on Facebook offers enough cautionary tales to make you think twice before accepting that next friend request. The film recently received its world premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival.

According to the filmmaker, a nearly constant onscreen presence, the impetus for the film came when his soon-to-be 13-year-old-son — "That's legal Facebook age" — demanded to know why his father wouldn't allow him to join, and why he isn't on Facebook himself.

In a director's statement, Pinvidic says that he originally intended to make the film in order to validate his negative feelings about the site and justify his decision to keep his son from joining. The results are more nuanced, however. There's plenty of derogatory material on display, but as he sees it the problems stem less from Facebook than the inanities of the people using it.

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We're thus introduced to Facebook addicts who accumulate hundreds or even thousands of friends indiscriminately (the average user has 139 friends). A gallery of horrible profile pictures and embarrassing personal revelations spell doom for young people attempting to get into colleges or land employment, even though it's the No. 1 job recruiting site in the world. Then there's the creepy guy who uses it to troll for women. "She's got a big ass, but that can be all right," he says about one potential target.

Pinvidic did join Facebook himself, albeit under an assumed name. And he found many willing friends, even though they had no idea who he was. One of the film's more amusing segments stems from his confronting one such hapless user who's understandably startled to see his new "friend" in person.

Rosanne Barr makes an appearance, denigrating the site and those who use it in her usual acerbic manner. And the ubiquitous Dr. Drew Pinsky is seen weighing in on the psychological ramifications of Facebook addiction. More interestingly, there's an interview with the Winklevoss twins, who despite claiming that Mark Zuckerberg "sandbagged" their creation admit that they're on Facebook themselves.

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The filmmaker isn't above resorting to cheap stunts, such as attempting to friend comedienne Kathy Griffin not through Facebook, but rather by holding up a large sign in the hope she'll see it.   

Despite resorting to pat psychoanalysis and cheap sentimentality towards the conclusion — yes, he finally does allow his son to join, and it only brings the two closer together — Pinvidic delivers a reasonably well-rounded portrait of this sociological phenomenon. But you may want to keep in mind his interview with a self-professed burglar who uses the site to identify potential victims.

Director: Brant Pinvidic
Producers: Hank Cohen, Dean Shull, Brant Pinvidic
Director of photography: Jake Pentland
Editors: Dean Shull, Eric Strand, Bryan Planner

No rating, 78 minutes