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Are You Cool?

By Tiffany Kosolcharoen

Associated Features Editor

“You have 0 friends,” thefacebook.com greeted me upon my first log-in. Like the 1,325 of you MITers (as of Wednesday, April 7) who have logged on, I started “adding friends.” Yes, keep laughing...

Then, I realized that technology exploited me. And you. It played on the one human weakness that brings us to our knees: the desire to be loved.

Unlike the good old Little House on the Prairie days when you’d still be cool if your dog were your only friend, the pressure to be accepted by anyone and everyone is huge. A birthday bash from your best friends will not quench this thirst. Hugs (and money) from Mom are discounted. Even benefits with your significant other are just not enough. We just can’t get enough lovin’. It’s all about having more, taking your existence in society up to the next level, and propelling yourself into the ranks of the Miss Google America pageant.

Love is no longer a strong affection, love is quantity. So desperate is our urge to be loved by many that we pay money for networking workshops. Humans have become so lame that we need classes to make friends! A thirty-thousand dollar tuition to an MBA school can buy you a thousand “friends” to add to your Instant Messanger buddy list.

The more socially “connected” we are, the more loved we feel. Yet, to create this connection with many other people, we need to generate a lot of buzz. Hype. Hoopla.

Today, there’s no such thing as bad press. To get our attention (the new substitute for love), popularity means a “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl. Janet Jackson’s “accident” created a record-breaking 180 percent surge in TiVo viewership.

If she had been a role model and performed at the Super Bowl with her clothes on, would we have applauded? Would we have even given the performance a second look? No. We are hypocrites. We say we love to be recognized for our virtues, but what we deem “cool” and “popular” are people who lack virtue.

Popularity ratings, numbers, and rankings are for the weak. Having a bad day? No fear, you have 196 friends on thefacebook.com and are connected to Earth by 98 Google pages. It’s a social security, an assurance that you are worthy.

I’ve read countless friends’ friends’ blogs and right-clicked Instant Messanger profiles of “buddies” I rarely talk to. When I came across a page with a hundred “friend” links, I once believed, “Wow, how popular.” I ate up the hype, but who truly has a hundred real friends? A hundred people you could ask favors from? It’s all silly, really.

What will define a leader and make you successful is your ability to resist the temptation of quantity. Instead of wasting hours on the facebook gathering more “friends,” we could really be making real friends. After all, we admire those who think on their own, not insecure people who live off the e-pinions of others.

That’s why your parents and your future kids will give you the greatest love of all. Perhaps you’ll receive some of the harshest advice from them -- but it will be said with unadulterated honesty. No hype. Even if you don’t impress them, they will be there for you.

A thousand people do not need to recognize our existence to make it worthy. There is no Miss Google America pageant. Only when you don’t live for the dreams of others can you be a cool person.