Jonathan Franzen warns about our superficial, "like"-based economy, but recent and future graduates may have a hard time avoiding it
Surprisingly often the New York Times will simultaneously publish articles in different sections, inadvertently commenting on each other's premises. Two pieces appeared on Sunday, a college commencement address by Jonathan Franzen in the Op-Ed section, and a feature about the younng men and women writing copy for the Web promotional service Groupon in Business Day.
Franzen contrasted the vulnerability of real personal relationships based on loving with the narcissism of gadgets and social networks based on (transitory) liking:
Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn't throw terrible scenes when it's replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.
(The Onion covered this a year or two ago in its own style.)
Mr. Franzen was speaking about personal relationships and environmental commitments, not about careers. Yet it will be hard for these graduates to avoid likability as a way of life if the Times' other article reflects the lives of young people in the real economy.