We meet a lot of people in our lives, probably more than we are willing to deal with. But it’s not like we really have a choice these days. Most of the people we meet are destined to be forgotten shortly after they have crossed our path. Only the exceptional few leave an impression, for right or wrong reasons. The impression left behind by an individual can be good because he or she is a fascinating person with deliberating views, or bad because he or she has a disturbing soul with twisted thoughts. On the rare occasion, we meet people who are likeable enough to become our friend. Other people are so unpleasant that we go out of our way to avoid them.  

But why is it that we like one person yet can’t stand the other? What makes a person either likable or obnoxious? What particularly fascinates me is that individuals who I tend to despise, for what I consider obvious reasons, have as many friends as I do. More disturbingly so, these people even get more likes on Facebook than I do. Does this mean that I’m too judgemental, or that some people are oblivious to the fact that they associate with unlikable people? Even if a bit of both were to be true, there is no denying that there is something skewed in society. A lot of shitty people are being liked and I wonder why. 

Perhaps some people hang out with unlikeables because they feel obligated or forced. Or maybe enjoyable folks hang out with loathsome folks because they simply lack better alternatives. We might also choose to hang out with despicable people to boost our own self esteem. Or possibly, we are simply not always capable of distinguishing nice from non-nice. We may even overlook individuals who lie, manipulate and deceit because we just wanna have a buddy to share a coffee or wine with. We like company, prefer nice people, presume our friends are nice, and as a result give people the benefit of the doubt. 

When I ask my most reliable source of knowledge about this matter, Wikipedia, I am told that likeable means ‘a person who is pleasant, friendly and easy to like’, which is stating the obvious. Obnoxious is explained as ‘extremely unpleasant’, which is pretty straightforward too. For the latter, however, an additional insight is given: bragging is considered obnoxious, as it intentionally disregards a social rule. Thank you dr. Wiki, I think we are onto something. Unlikeables tend to disregard social rules quite bluntly, as they normally lack human compassion and care about themselves only. Phychologists have been busting their brain over it and came up with a label: narcissism. This is the extreme end of an unlikeable personality, but it’s not uncommon. 

Narcissists have high levels of despiteful characteristics such as arrogance, selfishness, untruthfulness and predatory behaviour. Yet, they are pretty successful at being liked. They tend to be overly charismatic, make a killer first impression, and are well-trained at faking emotions. They gain people’s trust easily, whilst slowly taring their lives apart for their own benefit. Honest people who do have a sense of empathy, on the other hand, are sometimes not cutting it in social society because they aren’t outgoing enough. Who really cares about nice people when they are boring or shy? After all, good people can make bad company and bad people can be good at entertaining a crowd.

 It’s actually impossible to judge all the people we meet on likeability. There are so many, too many, hardly any time to check their criminal record or mental illness. It’s all too familiar: you have a likeable friend, until she sleeps with your boyfriend. You meet a nice boyfriend, until he sleeps with your sister. You lend money to your cousin, soon to discover he emptied your bank account. You are on good terms with your neighbour, before he poisons your dog overnight. You get along with the new colleague, until you read on the news that three corpses were recovered from his backyard. I think it’s particularly charismatic people who end up hiding their dead wives in the freezer down the basement.

 So be wary, don’t trust anyone, and particularly not your friends. Ask yourself: are they really likeable, or did you convince yourself so because you’re too trustworthy? Are they being liked because they’re good people, or because they’re good at manipulating good people? That’s one thing Wikipedia doesn’t tell us: avoid people with a lot of friends. If they do well in social society, better watch your back… evil is lurking. Any person with more than a thousand Fakebook friends is nothing but trouble really. To protect yourself from social abuse, rather aim for obnoxious people. Those who are shy, boring or lack any sense of humour. Their company might be torturous, but they are less likely to be dishonest manipulators. 

Another alternative is to stop guessing who is either likeable or obnoxious, and quit being social altogether. Five cats, a vibrator and Netflix-account kind of lifestyle. Or you can choose to outsmart people and become a narcissist yourself. There is really nothing you can’t teach yourself on YouTube these days. If you learn to master being a shitty person, you can even go into politics! But you can, of course, still decide to be a nice person. Even when you aren’t particularly liked by others, hang on to them good morals. Fuck it, we don’t need large amounts of friends, we don’t need Facebook likes! Stick to the few people who do like you. Even if it’s very few, it at least saves you time and money preparing for a dinner party.