Twice in the last month as I've tried to scoop a breaking news story, I've found myself in a race with Facebook.
I came in second. Both times.
Facebook moves not quite at the speed of light, but almost at the speed of thought. It can circle the globe, for all intents and purposes, instantaneously.
It's the coconut wireless on steroids. It's gossip harnessed to Google. There's no way that conventional media - especially those like newspapers born in an age when people counted on horses and buggies to get them around - can compete.
I won't bore you with the details of my scoops. One had to do with when to release a story I'd been sitting on for a while; the other was about trying to get video online before anyone else.
Facebook doesn't have to worry about such things. Like the old test to see if the noodles are done, you throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Its ease at disseminating data without any need to test its accuracy is the tiniest tip of the iceberg that will see Facebook driving more and more of what we call "the news" in days and weeks and years to come.
The ramifications are huge, but beyond our current vocabularies to describe. Just consider the way Facebook has revolutionized sociology along with the ways we think of ourselves, leaving concepts like privacy or modesty in need of serious makeovers.
When "Facebook" - which still gets flagged by my spell-checker as an unknown word - joins Google in becoming a verb, it will provide further evidence of who, or what, rules in the digital domain.
Baffled and fascinated by this whole subject, the opening of the brilliant new movie "The Social Network" couldn't have come at a better moment.
Written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David Fincher and revolving around Jesse Eisenberg's provocative portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the drama recounts the birth of the site- partially by accident, partially by petty vengeance -in a Harvard dorm room in 2004.
In this "fictional" unauthorized version, the whole thing started after Zuckerberg was jilted by a girlfriend, and vindictively blogged about her to get even. At upper-crusty Harvard, he longed to be part the best clubs, and was willing to play to the basest human instincts to get there.
With various dorm mates' help, the earliest prototypes for what would become Facebook included putting photos of two coeds next to one another and letting viewers vote on which was hotter. Exploiting his classmates' elitism - along with the fundamental truth that people are nosy - provided the secret ingredients for the site's exponential growth.
The site's origins in pettiness, insecurity, jealousy, exclusivity and voyeurism, not to mention its addictive quality, might give Facebook's current 500 million members pause the next time they log on. Or not.
In an era of action blockbusters, this film's action mostly involves popping beers from the dorm-room fridge as computer genius Zuckerberg fiendishly hacks, crashes and deceives his way into the most significant social sea change of the new millennium.
The rest of the movie takes place elsewhere on the Harvard campus, where everyone is smart; or else in California, where everyone is loaded; or else in lawyers' offices where Zuckerberg's friends and foes -beautifully played by Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer -vie for their pieces of the billion-dollar empire they've spawned.
Fashioning compelling drama from computer hacking and legal depositions requires its own form of genius. I've long thought that if William Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing for television and movies, and his name would be Aaron Sorkin.
In "Wall Street," which this film unseated atop the box-office charts, the writers showed that they understood the potential for evil doing in the stock market, but couldn't be bothered explaining it to the audience. In contrast, you walk out of "The Social Network" feeling like you can almost write computer code yourself.
And at its center is the computer programmer savant, as off-putting and socially aloof as he is fascinating and magnetic. Eisenberg's performance is already generating Oscar buzz, as is the movie itself for best picture. Ironically, in today's Silicon Valley, it's being seen not as a cautionary tale, but as a heroic triumph of the underdog. Apparently no moral compass is required to navigate in those neighborhoods.
Like the nerds who had similar seismic impacts on the movie industry in the 1960s and in Silicon Valley in the '70s, Mark Zuckerberg may have yet to learn that wanting to be cool is a pretty good guarantee that you're not, and aren't going to be.
But heaven help the rest of us who have to live in the worlds guys like him reshape in their own image.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.