From Jonathan Franzen to James Franco: What Your Hate-Clicks Say About You


Just when you thought it was going to be a quiet weekend, you get Jonathan Franzen talking about how modern life is rubbish and suddenly we’re all — yet again — sent scrambling to identify exactly what it was about his most current essay that got us the most riled up:

I guess I see why Salman Rushdie got so upset; Franzen did confess to “feeling some version of his disappointment” at the Midnight’s Children author for getting on Twitter, since, according to Franzen, great writers don’t waste their time tweeting.

Rushdie obviously has Google Alerts for his name, a publicist, or a team of really good-looking MFA students who relayed the fact that the author of Freedom was bummed about Rushdie’s choice to tweet, so it makes sense that he read Franzen’s diatribe against his new computer and America, and admission that he’s “not even sure the original Luddites were Luddites.” I get why Rushdie clicked; but did you really click because you cared about Franzen’s nearly 6000 words on why he thinks everything is totally blah? Are you really so interested in his new book, The Kraus Project, that you care to read Franzen’s thoughts on nothing yet again?

I kinda think that the answer is no. I don’t think you care all that much what Franzen thinks, but you wanted another reason to get pissed at him, so you clicked the link, you skimmed through the piece. Maybe you fumed at your desk, wrote a good response essay, or tweeted something funny about it, then deleted it, and then tweeted about the deleted tweet:

If there was a Mount Rushmore for people who excel at click-bait, it would prominently feature Jonathan Franzen. But why do we complain? Are we not the architects of a magical mountain built by angry mouse clicks that feature some of the faces on this list?

Jonathan Franzen

Why you hate-click him: He’s a successful author who always comes off like a total jerk. He seems like a cross between a stepfather you didn’t like, some smug douche you knew in college, and just about any middle-aged rich white dude.

What it says about you: You click because, deep down, you need something to kick your heart up a notch. You know that Franzen, while he sometimes comes off as arrogant and pompous, is still a smart guy who likes to read and write books. If you know who Jonathan Franzen is, that means you probably like to read and maybe write books as well, so it bugs you that somebody who shares the same kinds of interests as you could act like such an out-of-touch grumpy Gus.

What can you do to fix this: Don’t click.

Jennifer Weiner

Why you hate click-her: You don’t. And Jennifer Weiner isn’t on the Mount Rushmore of hate-clicks either. What Weiner actually does is more interesting: she starts conversations about topics you might be afraid to talk about, like the vast discrepancies (between highbrow and lowbrow genres, the large amount of books written by guys that get reviewed, etc.) in the publishing world. Yes, maybe she over-tweets about these things sometimes, and there’s the possibility that you as, say, a writer of literary fiction, or you, bestselling wearer of vests, feel a little uncomfortable with her ideas. But her thoughts provoke others to write pieces that respond to the topics she tweets about, except those pieces aren’t about the large number of dudes being reviewed by the New York Times Book Review — they become about Jennifer Weiner:

Suddenly these are Jennifer Weiner issues, and not issues about diversity. The shift lets people like Jonathan Franzen dismiss these conversations as “Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion,” and that’s simply no good. If you have read this far, regardless of whether you agree with Weiner or not, you’re angry at somebody for something, and you’re going to furiously click away at whatever relevant link pops up.

What it says about you: Yeah, you should care about the sort of things Weiner is bringing up. Should you get angry about them? Do you really have enough free time to write a scathing response?

What you can do to fix this: I mean, if authors trying to address grievances more serious than Grumpy Cat on Twitter make you angry, I feel safe saying you should probably take a social media hiatus.

James Franco

Why you hate-click him: Because James Franco is a really good-looking person with a ton of money, and his 6000 highbrow projects make us all feel we’re part of one big social experiment or weird performance art piece (or joke, which is ultimately on us).

What it says about you: You’re feeling a combination of jealousy and annoyance because Franco is a really good-looking person with a ton of money, and his 6000 highbrow projects make us all feel we’re part of one big social experiment or weird performance art piece (or joke, which is ultimately on us).

This is understandable.

What you can do to fix this: I’d like to believe that James Franco is like the bogey man: if you stop paying attention, he’ll go away, and you’ll be free to point your irrational hatred elsewhere. But unfortunately, that probably is not the case. I think Franco has some dirt on somebody, and he’s just going to continue trolling us until the only thing that’s left is for us to do is just accept James Franco.

Katie Roiphe

Why you hate-click her: Because you never agree with Katie Roiphe, and you need something to get angry about. She’s sort of like Franzen, in that you know she’s smart and she reads good books, but she just always says something totally awful.

What that says about you: If you haven’t agreed with Roiphe yet, I wouldn’t expect it to happen soon. So just admit it: you’re the kind of person who likes to cruise past traffic accidents to gawk at the carnage.

What you can do to fix this: Don’t click. If you do click, don’t share it. Simple enough plan.

Bryan Goldberg of

Why you hate-click him: He seems awful.

What this says about you: You aren’t awful, and it’s nice to remind yourself that there’s a difference between people like you and people like Bryan Goldberg of

What you can do to fix this: I have this sneaking suspicion that no matter how much we all want to make fun of the guy, he’s still going to figure out some dastardly way to make more money than all of us. So go ahead and keep hating all you’d like.

Lena Dunham

Why you hate-click her: You realize that there’s a chance that Lena Dunham might actually be the voice of her generation, and that scares the crap out of you. You also know that your unpublished book is way better than the one she got paid millions for, and you resent her for that.

What this says about you: You don’t really get what’s so great about Girls and/or you’re jealous of her success, but you’re kind of hoping that if you keep following Dunham, some of her good fortune will rub off on you.

What you can do to fix this: Don’t click anything with her name attached to it. Chances are if you don’t like Dunham, Portlandia or Miranda July will probably upset you, too. Just keep sitting on your porch and yelling at the kids to get off your lawn.

Philip Roth

Why you hate-click him: You know what? I have no clue. Does it really bug you that he told a writer to give up writing? Are you mad about something Philip Roth did or said before you were born? I don’t get it. I mean, he’s a weirdo, there’s no doubt about that. But hating on Philip Roth at this point is like admonishing your grandfather for asking for too many samples from the Whole Foods hot bar.

What this says about you: Daddy, grandpa, and/or general patriarchy issues. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

What you can do to fix this: Thank god Roth is retired now so he can’t haunt you as you spend your day searching YouTube for commercials from the 1980s or looking at blog posts that help you decipher why you get so worked up over things on the Internet.


Why you hate-click them: You’re old and want to figure out what’s the matter with these darn kids today. Thank goodness there is always some armchair anthropologist to write a Time or New York Times cover story to sort it all out for you.

What it says about you: You went to Lollapalooza when it was an actual tour; you might be Jonathan Franzen.

What you can do to fix this: Realize that everyone gets older and people said the same thing about your generation. Hopefully that will make you feel better about the youths. The only other thing you can do is just get off the Internet all together.