Remember the Jonathan Franzen New York Times essay from last year, "Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts"? In it, he considers the "transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb 'to like' from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture's substitute for loving." And he opines:
But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist -- a person who can't tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.
If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you've despaired of being loved for who you really are.
Franzen's article came to mind on Friday when I received an email from the public service announcement arm of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission delivering the news that "The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has launched a new Facebook page. It's a great way for the public, the media, employees, the alcoholic beverage industry, and community groups to keep up with the agency! Like us at http://www.facebook.com/TXABC.
I immediately clicked over to the Facebook and liked the page. And I was pleased to discover that the TABC allows its likers to post on its wall. In my view, this is a signal that the TABC encourages us to engage and interact with it, and I'll be curious to see what members of the "alcoholic beverage industry" will have to say about the agency -- in the light of the fact that nearly everyone who works in the wine and spirits business loves to hate the TABC.
It's a bold move by the TABC and I applaud it, even though, as Franzen noted, "The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking."
Of course, the TABC does a lot more than frustrate owners of bars and restaurants in Houston and greater Texas. Part of its mission is "Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL)." It also intends to raise awareness of under-age drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol poisoning through its new YouTube Channel where you can view public service announcements that address the abuse of alcohol among young people with in-house-produced videos. (So far, no subscribers.)
I'm not sure how long it's been around, but it also has a site devoted exclusively to these issues: 2 Young 2 Drink. And don't forget the TABC Twitter feed, where a "RT/follow does not necessarily mean endorsement." A friendly tagline if I ever saw one!
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Irony aside, social media engagement by the TABC -- whether you love it or hate it -- can only be a good thing. However difficult the TABC may make it for Texas bar owners and restaurateurs to run their businesses, the TABC also helps to protect our communities and our children. And while we often find it hard to live with the TABC (especially if you want to buy alcohol the Monday after Christmas when Christmas falls on a Sunday), we simply can't live without it. Alcohol regulation is a vital element in any country or state's relationship with booze: It helps to keep us safe, and it helps to protect suppliers, business owners, and consumers.
As in everything in life, it's a balance of pain and pleasure. As Frazen reminds us, "pain hurts but it doesn't kill. When you consider the alternative -- an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology -- pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived." Words to live, love... and like by.