In “Generation Why?” a social-networking jeremiad published in The New York Review of Books last year, Zadie Smith reduces the motivations of the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to one: he wants to be liked. She writes, “For our self-conscious generation (and in this, I and Zuckerberg, and everyone raised on TV in the Eighties and Nineties, share a single soul), not being liked is as bad as it gets. Intolerable to be thought of badly for a minute, even for a moment.” Even if you reject, as I do, the universality of her diagnosis, Smith has pinpointed the reason so much of what passes for intellectual debate nowadays is obscured behind a veneer of folksiness and sincerity and is characterized by an unwillingness to be pinned down. Where the craving for admiration and approval predominates, intellectual rigor cannot thrive, if it survives at all.
– Maud Newton, New York Times Magazine