Monday, July 16, 2012

How much do you like your friends?

Facebook and social media is based on a great idea.  You can stay in touch with friends and acquaintances you don’t see very often, and their friends might share interests with your friends, so you can have more friends.  Awesome.
Because there is a physical and psycological distance online, we sometimes say things we wouldn’t say if someone was right in front of us.  We can always log off a conversation on Facebook.  Can’t do that in person so easily.  Distance makes us a little more bold.
Many are now looking for “passive income” from the internet.  There is plenty of talk of “monetizing” - or “making money” somehow from a website, or your relationship with others online.
The Facebook updates I enjoy, and the friends I have online that I like to hear from generally offer humorous or interesting things when they update what is going on for them.  Sometimes they mention a party or get-togehter, or even an event they are attending that I’m also interested in.  I “like” this.  These interactions are gifts to me.
But there are other sorts of friends.  Some of these friends self-promote products and services they are offering for sale.  I’ve done this myself.  “Shameless Huckseterism” is a term I like for this kind of behaviour.  Essentially, these friends begin to use friendship to make money.  But there is a problem here.
A friend is someone who likes you - not who “Likes” you.  A friend likes you because of qualites you possess, but often they like you in spite of the qualities you possess.  They love you.  The reciprocity of friendship is a gift - it is not for sale, nor can friendship be monetized.
When we try to turn a gift into money things go wrong.  Imagine a friend gives you a gift for your birthday, just because they want to do something for you - not because they expect a gift back.  You open it and say  “Thanks - do you have the receipt?”.  A shamed silence descends over the birthday party, everyone feels awkward. Why?  Because when arbitrary value (in the form of dollars) is introduced  to try to measure the unmeasureable - love - it diminishes it.  The gift given was picked to suit the person, maybe it was even made by hand.  Money is the same for everyone.
When we try to use the internet to make money, it would be prudent to remember who your real friends are.  Your real friends would probably rather lend or give you some money than have you diminish their gift of friendship by trying to turn them into customers.  They like you.  They don’t need to “Like” you.

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