This morning, I, as the administrator of this bookstore’s email account, received an email from a source that will remain nameless. The subject of this email was, (in the interest of good sense I will paraphrase,) “Here’s how you and your business can become likeable!” I, of course, even as a bewildered observer and trepidatious participant, understood right away that upon reading said email I would not be taught how to capitalize on my charm and good looks in order to make more friends. I understood instantly that within were the secrets to becoming the queen of Facebook, Twitter, etc. (the etc. is there to indicate that I’m aware there are other social media sites in existence; however, I cannot, off-hand, name them.)
Later in the day, as I leaned against the Genius Bar™ at an Apple™ store, awaiting my own personal genius to make genius magic, I stared, openly, at a three-year-old, who deftly navigated, manipulated and, in every way that counts, owned, the absolute weirdness that is a computer. And that’s when I wondered whether any studies had been done contrasting (and maybe even comparing) the ways in which, for example, I developed as a three-year-old, playing house with pots and pans as I had seen my mother do, and the way in which this three-year-old seamlessly glides between the reality of building blocks on her bedroom floor and building blocks on a screen, in a virtual room that is probably made to look very similar to her own. Evolution of this sort doesn’t move at the speed of decades. Does it?
Likable. Am I likable? Is our bookstore likable, meaning, vital, significant? Much has been made, and rightly so, of the phenomenon that is being a complete beast of a human being and passing off as perfectly likable on the internet and the infinite permutations of this situation. It’s great for shy people, for example, who have a hard time looking people in the eye. They can go online and be bold, vibrant. Maybe even live a little. On the other side, are the perfectly healthy, happy humans who use these media according to the prescribed dosage; they share pictures of their beautiful babies, they wish one another happy birthdays, announce successes, commiserate with each other over failures. And so on. But that isn’t where it ends. It never is.
There is a reason the people in your “network” are called “friends”, even if most of them are acquaintances, at best. There is a reason why you “like” someone so they can be your “friend”. We “like” people so that they may feel liked. 1+1=2, yes. But you just know that 1+1=2, you don’t have to think about it anymore. And that, I’m suggesting, is the genius behind all of this.
Smarter and better-informed minds have written at length of what, simply by deduction, clearly awaits us in the near-future. And,just as a hundred years ago I would have scoffed at the possibility of living to see the age of 70, I scoff at the thought that the survival of a business will be dependent upon whether they read and followed the instructions in the email I received this morning. I scoff at the thought that whether a qualified young man receives the job he’s coveting will depend on how much more “likable” his competitors are. I mostly scoff at myself, however. Because, what is what I’m describing but an extension of the physical world as we know it, anyway? That’s what hurts a feel-of-the-paper-loving gal like me most: that the internet is not science fiction. That the social networking of underground clubs and cocktail parties is the same social networking that is open for the world to see. At least, there is a guest list at a cocktail party? At least, there are no listening devices hidden everywhere, transmitting all that is being said to the world-wide web of humanity? Is that what offends me? That the whole world can judge us now, instead of the select few people who actually know who we are?
Anyone reading this, I’m almost sure, is a healthy, happy participant of this world that confounds me. It is impossible to participate half-heartedly. What is it that draws you? What is it that keeps you immersed? What about it makes you happy?