“Like.” It’s such a humble-sounding, innocuous-seeming little word, isn’t it? At least when compared to “love,” “hate,” and all those other small but ringingly depth-charged, clangingly portentous verbs? However, according to Mr Mitch Prinstein, in his new book Popular: The Power Of Likeability In A Status-Obsessed World, how much we’re liked – by our peers, our work colleagues, and yes, even on Facebook – has profound implications when it comes to our success, our relationships, and our happiness. “Popular people are higher achievers and bigger earners, with happier marriages and stronger work relationships,” he writes. “Unpopular people are more prone to substance abuse, depression, injury, illness, and suicide.”
Mr Prinstein knows what he’s talking about; at 16, he writes, he was a “four-foot-seven, 100-pound weakling in bifocals, the recipient of the not-hugely-coveted Perfect Attendance award in ninth-grade-class, regularly humiliated by the cool kids.” On his way to becoming a high-achieving, presumably non-substance-abusing psychologist, he’s studied popularity in depth, and concluded that those “cool kids” were aiming for the wrong kind of popularity; that is, status rather than likeability. “The desire to be popular is fundamental to human nature, but it’s not always good for us,” he counsels. In a world where self-worth seems to be dependent on social media affirmation, how can we emulate Mr Prinstein, and come out on top in all the beneficial, gratifying, non-toxic ways? These three lessons from his book should help get us onto a more favoured footing.