Is Facebook Making Us Lose Our Sense of Reality?

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A commentary on 'The Bachelorette' and Jonathan Franzen's recent article in 'The New York Times.'

In last week’s "Opinion" section of the New York Times, author, Jonathan Franzen, discusses the hidden evils of technology and facebook, an ever-popular topic of conversation among social critics. He argues that both forces are turning American society into an increasingly superficial group of people who have forgotten the difference between liking people or things, and loving them. These two worlds—the worlds of liking and loving—are fundamentally at odds with one another. The world of liking is shallow and revolves around consumeristic desires.

We flash our credit cards to buy whatever gadgets we like, and then click buttons on our computers to show how much we like our friends’ status updates and photos and lives. Franzen believes it has made us obsessed with liking and being liked, and he encourages his readers to go beyond all the silly fakeness of liking, and to try actual loving. He fears we are forgetting how to do that as a society—that we are forgetting how to love10 Twitter And Facebook Dating Red Flags

A few days after reading this article, I watched the most recent episode of The Bachelorette, and low and behold, the first half of it brought Franzen’s ideas to life. It began with this season’s bachelorette, Ashley Herbert, using her first one-on-one date to plan a pretend wedding and feign getting married. She chooses to do this with William, a 30-year-old cell phone salesman from Ohio whom she knows very little about. She flies him out to Las Vegas, asks him to sample wedding cakes, takes him to pick out engagement rings, and finally makes him stand with her in front of a priest at one of Vegas’ many wedding chapels.

A rather bizarre way to make a first impression with a man, isn’t it? Not to mention the fact that all this wedding planning and role playing gives them little time to chat and actually, say, get to know one another.

However, when you consider the reason Ashley gives for conducting this charade, and the reason William gives for going along with it, the whole scenario starts to make a bit more sense—especially in light of Jonathan Franzen’s article.

Franzen’s biggest beef with facebook seems to be that it has transformed the idea of "liking something" from being a state of mind, to being an action—a click of a mouse, a consumeristic choice. He argues that the more people engage in accepting and dismissing things based on how much they like them, the more they start craving the same sort of superficial acceptance in return.

Throughout the first two episodes of The Bachelorette, Ashley mentions multiple times that she is afraid the men won’t like her. She fears they’ll be disappointed that she was chosen as the bachelorette; she fears that none of them are ready for marriage; she fears that some of them have come to the show "for all the wrong reasons" (i.e. publicity, luxurious vacations).