Tag Archives: facebook

Lessons in Love and Life from Jonathan Franzen

“There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of.”

Once again, there I was on metafilter when I stumbled across something interesting.  Go figure.  This time, it was an excerpt from a commencement speech at Kenyon College (printed in the opinion page of the NYT) written by author Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) about technology and narcissism and love and life.

Franzen talks about the “liking” phenomenon sweeping the world, thanks to Facebook.  We all want to “like” things, and we want people to “like” us.  “If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are.”


Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- via Flickr

We want to be loved for who we are, and yet we rarely show our true selves to people, especially at the beginning of a romantic relationship.  We try to be perfect, to be who the person wants us to be, or who we think the person wants us to be.  We don’t lose our temper when someone cuts us off on the road.  We cook gourmet dinners.  We obviously don’t burp or fart or poop, because we don’t do any of those things. We don’t get upset or have a bad day and eat a pint of ice cream to ease the pain.  We exercise regularly and have a clean house.

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.

Suddenly there’s a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person, does this person love me?

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.

This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.

The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there’s such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking.

And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill. When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived.

Read the rest of the opinion piece here.

Listen to the whole commencement speech here.

Aries! Pisces? Both! Neither?

Astrological signs

Image via Wikipedia

Facebook was “abuzz” with the news that the zodiac sign we’ve been living with our whole lives is not correct, because the earth’s axis has rotated since the zodiac signs were named.  Friends claimed “I’m a Leo all the way” and “I’ll never be anything but a Virgo.”

I’ve always been an Aries.  Many of the Aries traits apply to me, but I’ve never felt like I was a true Aries.  I’m not as fiery, not as Out There as the Aries sign has always seemed.  So maybe I really am a Pisces.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  (All sun sign description came from about.com.)


  • courageous (yeah), pioneering (eh), brilliant (well of course!), adventurous (sure), dynamic (hmm), straight-forward (sometimes)
  • willful (can be), dominating (not so much), selfish (yes and no), ruthless (definitely not), insensitive (I suppose I can be, sometimes), impatient (Hell Yes)
  • Aries are gifted with a direct, fiery nature that makes them one step ahead of the crowd. (?) They take charge of a situation, and their sense of certainty usually makes others fall in line. (??) This makes the Sun in Aries a born leader. (???)
  • Often larger-than-life, they can light up a room with their charisma. (Really, not so much)  If a gathering is dull, they’ll quickly move on – and they’re among the ones with the stamina to party ‘til dawn. (Rarely) Aries craves excitement and their restless spirits seek out the next big thing. (Yeah, kind of)
  • Aries can rise to the challenge of any battle. Sometimes they go too far and scorch those they love with hurtful words said in the heat of the moment.  (It’s been known to happen)  They quickly forgive and forget (Big Fat No), but often deal with the fall out of their brusque demeanor.
  • Aries wants to achieve great things, and is propelled by an inner drive that is a force to be reckoned with.  (Not so much)  Their bright minds and ability to initiate can make them trailblazers in their careers. (eh)
  • At times, the rush to action can cause them to take unnecessary risks, or forge ahead without planning out crucial details.  (no, I’m kind of a planner) Some say the Sun in Aries learns the hard way, by leaping before looking. But being an active sign, the Aries learns best through experience.  (That’s VERY true)


  • compassionate (I can be, sometimes), creative (I’d like to think so), mystical (not so much), sensitive (yes), romantic (mmhmm), dreamy (sure)
  • escapist (oh yeah), lazy (yep), self-indulgent (often), overwhelmed (occasionally), impressionable (not really)
  • As the last of the twelve Zodiac signs, Pisces is said to contain aspects of them all. This makes the Pisces Sun so changeable as to appear not to have one singular identity. It’s as if they’re just touching down in this human reality, and light enough to try on a few personas.  (Is this saying I have multiple personalities?)
  • Pisces can be so dreamy as to seem “somewhere else” half the time. They’re tuned into the spiritual side of things, and this gives them an otherworldly air. It can seem that they’re always sensing the emotional currents that run between people, as well as those connecting us to the great beyond.  (No, no, not so much)
  • The Pisces Sun leads with a compassionate heart, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Many are remarkably wise and self-sacrificing when it comes to helping the vulnerable or those down on their luck. (Not me)  But this noble trait can take them down a path of being used and abused before they learn to set strong boundaries.
  • This is the sign of the mystic poet, and a creative pursuit gives Pisces the motivation to be disciplined. And bringing structure to the vast imagination and shades of emotion flowing within the Pisces nature is a great achievement. Through art, they can bring a bit of heaven down to Earth for the benefit of everyone.  (I can hope!)
  • It’s important for Pisces Sun to find a sense of purpose to avoid just drifting. Their sensitivity makes them also a tad more vulnerable to escapism through addictions or personal dramas. (I don’t have an addictive personality at all)  Finding a sense of worth, self-definition and purpose seem to be some of their life lessons.  (Big Mm-Hm)

So, maybe I’m a little of both.  Heck, I’m probably a little of every sign.  I think we all are.  Does it matter if our signs have changed, if they’re not what we thought they were?

Then again, the story could be blown way out of proportion.  The media has a knack for doing things like that.

10 questions for 2010

I came across this little “Mad Lib” on CNN and thought it sounded fun.

As the year ends, it’s a time to look back and remember everything that you’ve seen and accomplished. CNN iReport is taking a look back at 2010, and we want you to help us.

We were doing some Mad Libs in the newsroom and got inspired to try an assignment in that vein, so we came up with a list of fill-in-the-blank prompts requesting information from you — to answer on camera.

Now, obviously I’m not going to do a video, but I thought it sounded fun.  So here we go:

1. 2010: How do you pronounce it? Two thousand ten

2. Make a facial expression that shows how you feel about the year. (eyes rolled back into head, tongue stuck out with open mouth)

3. The best thing I bought was my Acer mini.

4. For me, 2010 was tough to handle[Answer with three words]

5. I totally cringed this year when LSU quarterback Jefferson missed the snap with 2 seconds left in the game.

6. The best thing on the Internet by far was my blog. 😉

7. I’m pretty sure I overshared on Facebook this year when I said I was “freaking the hell out” on January 8th, the day I realized my “boyfriend” of a year and a half had changed his phone number.  I thought he was dead.  Then I wished he was.

8. The best day of the year was December 31.  This year is OVER!

9. The best place I visited was (sadly) Myrtle Beach, which is 175 miles from where I live.

10. Next year, I’m planning to make it a better year.

What about you?

The corner of No and Where


Image by delade via Flickr

Do you ever just catch yourself clicking on the same stuff over and over again while on the internet?

  • Let me check my email.
  • Now let me check facebook.
  • Let’s check the blog stats, see how many visitors I’ve had today.
  • Go over to Postsecret.  Sure, I was just there yesterday, and it only changes on Sunday, but I want to see that one postcard again, you know the one.  (For the record, I didn’t send it in, that’s not me, and I don’t know who sent it.  I am, however, taking it to heart.)
  • Check a couple friends’ blogs.  But not the ones I really need to catch up on, I need more time to devote to those.  And it’s been forever and I feel horrible and like a terrible blog friend.  Soon, I swear, but not right now.
  • Back over to Facebook.  Sure, it’s only been 5 minutes, but look, there’s two new posts for something!
  • I should check email again, too, just to make sure nothing’s come up.
  • Let’s check Freshly Pressed, just read the headlines, see if there’s anything that catches my interest.
  • Speaking of headlines, let’s check the latest on CNN….
  • …and on the local news site…
  • …did anyone say anything about that news story on Facebook?  Let’s go check…

Have you seen that one commercial?  It’s for internet service, I think.  The guy is clicking and clicking on all these websites, and he gets a warning that says, “You have reached the end of the internet.”  I feel like that sometimes.  I can remember surfing on the internet like crazy, back in the late 90’s, just going from site to site to site, didn’t matter what it was.  “Let’s learn about the jumping spider native to the Congo!”  Nowadays, I feel like there’s nothing I really want to look at.  My mind is racing a hundred miles an hour, and I can’t concentrate on any one webpage long enough to bother. I mean, the internet (as I’ve previously discussed) is this amazing thing, opening the world up to you, and somehow I end up in the same part of town, looking at the same street signs.  Not because I don’t want to go somewhere else, I just don’t seem to have the mental patience or drive to do it.

Does this sound familiar?  Does anybody else find themselves doing this, feeling this way?

Does 9 men in 2 hours make me a slut?

As if dating didn’t suck enough as it is (or maybe, because dating sucks as much as it does), someone, once upon a time, came up with the clever idea of cramming 12 dates into 2 hours. Just think, instead of spending every night for two weeks attempting to find enough to talk about with 12 different people for an hour or two, you can spend one evening talking about the same thing over and over (and over) again with 12 different people. I mean, really, with less than 10 minutes per date, can you really get into an in depth conversation with someone and learn anything about them?

Where are you from? What do you do? Have you done this sort of thing before? Why are you doing this now? What part of town do you live in? Do you have any pets? Some people will come armed with more profound questions, such as, “If you had one superpower, what would it be and why?” Because, you know, if he says he wants to be invisible, he’s obviously a psycho stalker you need to stay away from, although if he said he wanted super strength, then obviously that makes him an okay guy. Besides being non-insightful, that question isn’t incredibly original. Although, I guess it is better than, “Would you rather get married in your local church or in Vegas?” Or, “How many kids do you want?” Good questions, if you’re interested in taking the next step with someone, but in the first ten minutes?!

Let’s face it – speed dating is about the very basic superficial characteristics. You get to see how attractive they are, how big their gut/butt is, what their voice sounds like, if they smell, and if there is any attraction. That’s what it boils down to – why waste the time and energy on numerous emails and the nervousness of meeting someone and wondering if you’ll like them (as in typical online dating) when you can see if they are cute or not within ten minutes of meeting them? The questions you each ask and the answers you each provide are meaningless chatter to cover up the fact that you’re looking to see if they have any disfiguring characteristics.

I admit, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of speed dating for years, but have never had the opportunity to try it out. A couple of years ago, before I started dating The Pilot, I looked into local speed dating, but there were no events. So, after The Pilot, I looked again. And found an event. I still wasn’t okay enough to go by myself, so I asked a friend to go with me.

My expectations were low. Very low. VERY low. I expected 12 women and 4 men to be there. I expected those 4 men to be unattractive, unintelligent losers. And I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. There were 11 women and 9 men. With the exception of one jerk who thought he was this schnizzel (and wasn’t), they were all very nice men. A couple of them were even attractive. Not drop dead gorgeous, mind you, but cute.

Here’s how it works: You keep a list of the people you meet, and you circle “interested” or “not interested.” The people you are interested in get your email address to contact you if they are interested. For example: I’m interested in getting to know Joe, and Joe is interested in getting to know me. We are both sent each other’s contact information. Or, I’m interested in getting to know Joe, but Joe is not interested in getting to know me. He is sent my email address, but I am not given his. Or, Joe is interested in getting to know me, but I’m not interested in Joe. I am notified Joe is interested, and I’m given his email address, he is not given my information. Make sense?

Out of the 9 guys I met, I was interested in getting to know more about 3 of them. 2 of those 3 were also interested in getting to know more about me (meaning 1 was not). In addition, 2 men I was not interested in were interested in me. That means 3 men ended up with my email address, and I ended up with email addresses for 4 men.

I didn’t email any of the guys, and, with the exception of one guy, none of the guys contacted me.

Now, here’s the exception: This one guy, let’s call him Vinnie, did not email me at the email address provided to him. He sent me a friend request on Facebook. With no, as I call it, “supporting message.” No “Hey, we met last night at the speed dating event” email. But here’s the really strange thing. No last names were given. I do not have an unusual first name. The email address provided does not match the email account I have associated with Facebook. My current profile picture is not a very clear picture of me – it’s not a picture that you could look at and go, Oh, hey that’s her. So my question is, how the heck did he find me on Facebook?

Yeah, I’m a little bothered by that. It makes me wonder if the event organizer gave him my last name, which, if that’s the case, I’m going to be furious. Besides, why would he friend me out of the blue like that? At least send me a message, too. I won’t even mention the fact that I don’t add friends just to have them, and I don’t add people as friends that I don’t know. I am not in a race to accumulate the most friends on Facebook, and I’m thinking maybe this guy is.

Anyway, to condense my feelings on speed dating: The reality far exceeded my expectations, and initially I would have considered doing it again, but after the glow of dating 9 men in 2 hours wore off, I came to the conclusion that it’s not worth a second try.

Has anyone else had experience with speed dating? Whether you’ve done it or not, do you have any thoughts on the process?

Facebook – Good vs. Evil

Is social networking bad for a relationship?  I’ve read a couple of articles about it, and I can certainly see the “YES” side of the argument.  But I also think it’s just an excuse.  I think if the relationship is shaky to begin with, then social networking just exacerbates the problem. 

I read one story about a guy who wondered why he should be friends with his wife – “I see her at home and we talk about our day every day, so why would I have her as a friend on Facebook?”  My question is, why wouldn’t you? 

Because, no matter how much I may trust my husband, I would have to wonder what it is he doesn’t want me to see.

That’s the bottom line, as far as I see it.  Either you have something to hide, or you don’t.  If you don’t have something to hide, then you don’t care.  If you do have something to hide…well…

It doesn’t begin or end with romantic relationships.  What if someone sends you a friend request, but you don’t want to be friends with them?  And, I’m learning, people have a different idea of friending “strategies.”  Some will approve anyone who requests to be a friend.  Some will only approve actual “friends” and struggle with approving acquaintances (or friends of friends).  Some only approve really close friends.  Which is right?  They all are.  It’s a very personal decision.

But when you’re the one that’s not approved for a friend request, or you’re the one who only sees filtered content, or you’re the one that has been unfriended by someone, regardless of how friendly you actually are with the person, it still stings. 

Back to the husband I mentioned above that’s not friends with his wife.  I kind of get that, even if I don’t agree with it (exactly for the reason I mentioned).  But I also think that social networking is more about connecting with people you don’t normally talk to in the course of a week, month, year, decade.  You stay up to date on their lives, without having to make the effort to email or call, without clogging up email with huge picture files of the kids in the pumpkin patch.  You catch up with old high school and college friends, without having to go to the over-priced reunion across the country.  The people I really care about, I already know about their lives.  I don’t need Facebook for that.

As for my romantic relationship, since The Pilot is away so often, our Facebook connection makes me feel closer to him when he’s far away.  All I have to do is log on, and I can see pictures of him and enjoy his smile.  I can enjoy his sense of humor in his wall posts.  I can get a sense of his day, wherever he is.  And, on the lucky times when we are both online at the same time, I can IM him and we can talk. 

And, honestly, today that thought is the only thing keeping me from closing out my facebook account.  Because I’m kind of not feeling Facebook lately.