“…the ongoing 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. The striking thing about all consumer products –and none more so than electronic devices and applications –is that they’re designed to be immensely likeable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren’t fixated on your liking it. I’m thinking here of jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature.
But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, a person without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist –a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity sacrificing lengths to be likeable.
If you dedicate yourself to being likeable, however, and adopt whatever cool person is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating others into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people because they’ve fallen for your shtick. Those people exist to make you feel good about yourself, but how good can your deeling be when it’s provided by people you don’t respect. You may find yourself becoming depressd, or alcoholic, or…
Consumer-technology products, of course, would never do anything this unattractive because they’re not people. They are, however, great allies and enablers of narcissism. Alongside their built-in eagerness to be liked is a built-in eagerness to reflect well on us. Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have contempt for its manipulability, the way we might with actual people. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.”
Jonathan Franzen, “Pain Won’t Kill You” in Farther Away, p 7-8, 4th Estate 2012.