Posted: April 19th, 2021

Why does jonathan franzen explore the difference of “like” vs. “love”

  1. Why does Jonathan Franzen explore the difference of “like” vs. “love” by creating a mirror analogy to expose what he calls “a magician’s shtick [trick]”: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…. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love” (4)? Focus on the distinctions made by the author between real-life love and the digital world of narcissistic “liking,” showing how true love presents “an existential threat… to the techno-consumerist” (4) false idea of love as mutual flattering with no conflicts/problems. 

Helping you to better understand the article and my question: 
Technological consumerism, as Franzen claims, is our obsession with purchasing newer technological devices, which we constantly use to communicate, to which we seem to relate as if to real people,  and which seem to enhance our images, our self-perceptions, and our self-admiration.  It’s a digital world of superficial and meaningless liking (when we click on “like”) and not of real love. It’s the author’s infatuation with BlackBerry devices and seeing them as his disposable and interchangeable temporary girlfriends. At the end, it leaves him depressed, angry, and lonely. We are seduced by tech corporations, under false pretenses luring us into this false “liking” world of technological products and technological consumerism.  Real-life love is not one-dimensional and demands completely different feelings and actions. It is delusional and self-deceiving to fall in love with BlackBerry Pearl or with Alexa, Siri, or any other digital devices. It’s not real. Love with real people hurts and comes with a possibility of rejection, loss, and abandonment. Technological devices claim to never abandon us or break our hearts, eliminating pain. But it is not living a real life. Only tech companies benefit from creating these false promises of love without pain. It’s not love. It is a cowardly world of liking. Of false mirrors. 

Ideas to examine: Explain Franzen’s frustration with technology and love. Examine his inner conflict. For example, the author talks of our (and his) fears of rejection/death/pain/loss. He writes a beautiful and deeply poetic definition of love. Why for example does he then choose to fall in love with birds? Isn’t it easier than loving a human being? Franzen says that technology allows us to escape from our fears. Are we hiding behind the “flattering mirrors” from life’s uncertainty and pain?


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Support your ideas with 2 meaningful quotations from Franzen’s article.  

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