Realer than Likability


This summer I’ve been reading The Corrections by one of the great writers of our time, Jonathan Franzen, so I was particularly anxious to read an excerpt from his commencement address at Kenyon College this spring, which I found in The Week.

I’ve been hanging on to the following thoughts of his for a while and had originally intended to use them as part of a larger piece on authenticity and publicity, but I felt like they couldn’t be more poignant as everyone waits for what Mashable essentially dubbed the biggest rollout on Facebook since Facebook itself.


…since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have contempt for its manipulability in 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… The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.


Elizabeth KingComment