I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love. My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about “getting down in the pit and loving somebody.” She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard.

Johnathan Franzen’s Liking is for Cowards in the NY Times.

27 thoughts on “Liking is for Cowards

  1. Maybe I’m just an illiterate who doesn’t know where the phrase comes from, but that seems to me like Jonathan Franzen quoting Alice Sebold quoting Kid Rock’s Bawitdaba, which is… odd.

  2. Alas, there is not a crock-of-shit button. Some cranky 51 -year-olds are nothing but narcissistic tendencies. They are, perhaps, a product of their era. If you’re enamored with wanna-be boomer meanderings, read someone else at novel length.

  3. Casting stones is for cowards too.

    I’m 52. What I am sick to death of is people younger than me (or not) unilaterally disrespecting others based on assumptions based upon age. I’m very active in social media and with people of all ages. I have in mind the egg that splatters on the face of ones disregard.

  4. ” the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love.”

    Is that the genesis of a new bumper sticker, or just another lame tweet?

  5. Alice is right on. The word love seems to terrify so many.

    I have actually written a book with the word love in it. It is being read in schools. One school changed the word to Care instead of Love. They have no problem teaching our children all about sex, and nothing about love.

  6. I’m 55 and Mr. Boren needs to clean up his syntax before he trashes all 51 year olds for their narcissism. I have no problem with social media, Facebook might bore me, but I know how to use it.

    You don’t have to like us, but calling us all narcissists is a tad bit unfair, don’t you think?

  7. I just turned 49. I don’t feel or act 49. Although, I SEE what people think about people my age. I think that is why many want to look younger as older people are not accepted for being smart or trendy only wrinkly and older than they are. I taught myself WordPress three years ago and created my own weblog. I love information technology stuff but did not know it when I was on the disco floor. So, like many others who are old like me, I hope to stay ‘with it’ for a very long time even when I do get all those wrinkles and a walking stick. I will still need the latest from WordPress!

    Age is nothing, it is your mind that matters!

  8. I didn’t Love this post, but I really Liked it, and conveniently enough, I Liked the fact that I could click the Facebook thing that said “Like”

  9. I was hoping this was going to be about that facebook-type gizmo that you can click on if you like something you see on the web. I wondered if maybe you had a better idea.

  10. I think this Johnathan Franzen article is seriously insightful and am glad I read the links on my WordPress dashboard to find the link to it.

    Mr. Franzen writes:

    Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn.


    A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture’s substitute for loving.

    I recently got dragged somewhat kicking and screaming onto Facebook as my wife has an account and we decided to see what would happen if she used it more actively. I felt an almost immediate recoil to the feel and energy of the Facebook environment/landscape. And now I notice — it seems like it’s everywhere, including little “like” buttons everywhere.

    Facebook feels heart-less and soul-less to me. All this busy activity but there’s something crucial about human interaction that’s just not there. Franzen’s article gets at that really well.

    I also felt the Facebook environment as very much about control — more precisely, shaping the boundaries of human interaction through conditioned and repetitive and near-ubiquitous response stimulated by the Facebook environs and its tendrils all over the web.

    From these recent experiences and observations, we at thatzeffedup.com recently published a satire piece about Facebook, out of this sense of “hey, this is seriously creepy”: Facebook Announces New Rules for All Human Life

    Thanks for bringing the Johnathan Franzen piece into view in your blog, Matt. IMO he’s for sure onto something.

    I also like that your blog includes love as one of the things that powers it (along with Ramen noodles etc)

  11. I much ‘dislike’ the liberal use of the word ‘narcissist’. Alas, it’s such a shame that narcissists always take the fall for egoists and egotists.

    By the way, I’ll be 48 next month. My eyes are glued to the computer and I think I’d rather be ‘likable’ than exhuming verbosity ad nauseum to the extent of ‘non sequitur’. Well, usually, at least.

    The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.
    -B.F. Skinner

  12. I actually both liked and loved the article. Its sad that few people notice how the internet has been fragmented into four or five big personal data selling monopolistic sites like Facebook, Google etc. Even just 8 to 10 years ago it was a real internet of many sites. I wish wordpress.com or yahoo or even msn (!) could enable similar “Like” button on the millions of site. The most frustrating and liberty-hurting part is that I am forced to see Facebook Like when I do not like to see it. I am not given the option. For example, I visit YOUR site for YOUR content or whatever, but NOT to see a 3rd party button (Facebook in this case) which I have not been asked prior to entering. The other sad part is forced FB comment in sites like TechCrunch. Why are there still no legal suits? Last but not the least, it really hurts to see Facebook footer in wordpress.org, surely FB do not have a WordPress footer or do they ?

      1. Dont want to be a troll here, but WP reached explosive usage and spread even before FB or the FB footer. Actually because of the footer and who are aghast to it like me you are *losing* many and that number is invisible. Any brand worth its salt does not piggyback on another, example Twitter needs no FB like 🙂
        WP is actually bigger and it can be more so without the FB footer, really.

  13. Love is where it’s at.

    Its composition has remained a mystery until recently. It is no wonder it really hasn’t worked.

    So many, are poking at it with a stick, like some dead thing on the beach, afraid it might really be alive.

    Love one another, practice the Golden Rule. Now we know ho to do that. The movement has begun.

    Kudos to you.