'The Facebook Obsession,' Thursday on CNBC
REASON TO WATCH: Not — ironically enough — for Facebook obsessives, but a good start for neophytes or those just emerging from a five-year hibernation.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: With Lester Holt reporting, CNBC promises "the real story" behind the unparalleled rise of a social network that has redefined the word "friend" en route to 500 million users.
Following the established documentary template, this report begins with a very personal story of a woman who located her birth mother on Facebook, then segues to the history of Facebook, with interviews of Chris Hughes — who launched President Obama's Facebook campaign and aggrieved early co-founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who are still aggrieved. It profiles a Massachusetts teacher whose brief online rant about the sanitary habits of her students ended her career. The privacy issue — of course — gets a big airing as well.
MY SAY: There is, alas, a very-late-to-the-party feel to "The Facebook Obsession," as if Holt and team had just straggled in the door around midnight and all the other partygoers were talked out, drunk, or both. A recent major motion picture has already explored the history, albeit with fictive flights of fantasy, while Mark Zuckerberg just submitted to another Lesley Stahl interview on "60 Minutes." (When CNBC sought an interview with Zuckerberg, Facebook spokespeople referred them instead to the site's "privacy page.") The Winklevosses whine to anyone within earshot, and for all I know are competing with the Naked Cowboy for the northwest corner of Times Square to set up another soapbox. Facebook, in the parlance of the news trade, is overexposed, and yet CNBC still feels duty bound to cover all those overexposed major issues, especially privacy concerns, without adding much of anything new. What's best here, however, is a clear, well-paced explanation of what Facebook was, and what it has become.
BOTTOM LINE: Good to a point, this hour badly needed to be stretched to two hours to further explore the technology, applications, business implications, future developments and, most of all, the basic reason for that very real Facebook obsession.