The Economics of Friendship. And other social media DOHs.
by Stan Faryna
Play the soundcloud player to hear the podcast. Or download it here. The podcast sounds awesome with earphones or played on hi-fi speakers. Try it and tell me what you think.
Mobile users: you should be able to hear the podcast here.
Like it or not – there is an economics to friendship. I know! I know it may seem to you that I have just said a heartless, stupid and terrible thing! Bill Dorman is going to have some fun with this.
Perhaps, Al too.
Economics is about how economies work and how economic agents interact. It’s about goods, services, and value. Friendship is about people. It’s about people relating to each other. But Friendship is also about value, goods, and services.
We put a value on our friendships based upon our interactions. For example, I cherish a close friend a thousand times more than a random friend (online acquaintance) on Facebook. What I’m not saying is that I tend to cherish offline friends more than online friends. I’m only making a distinction between those I have richer interaction with and those with whom I have had less or little interaction.
The interactions I have with friends include goods and services – material, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise.
Does this open up a can of worms for you?
Does the economic treatment of friendship make you uncomfortable?
My point, however, is not to emphasize the economic theory of friendship. Economic theory, as we all have observed, is as broken as meteorology (weather prediction). Like you, I am interested in the applied economics of friendship. Because that’s where the value is – it’s how value is created or undermined in our relationships with our friends.
The cornerstone in the economics of friendship is justice.
I know! I know that now you’re wondering what the heck justice has to do with friendship.
Justice is about giving what is due. Justice presumes equality between two or more persons. It establishes the ground for fair play. Justice allows us to recognize and honor the dignity of each other as persons.
Like you, I have mistakenly considered persons to be friends when, in fact, they that had no passionate intention to honor me and my dignity. Such disappointments were always predicated on their interest in unfair advantage regardless of the consequences to me. Or, worse, on insisting on my disadvantage.
I once believed I had a friend in a young man. And it happened that his parents were losing their home to the bank. I settled the complete debt without delay, questions, or sermons. Doing so effected my lifestyle and business for many months. He never repaid me and I never asked for repayment though his own wealth has increased many times beyond my own. I imagined that the accounts would be settled in their own good time.
How often have you imagined that the accounts of a friend would be settled someday?
When the time came for me to ask that so-called friend for help, he made me beg for help, he didn’t answer phone calls, he delayed greatly, and, ultimately, he helped just enough for him to think he had served me as a friend – not enough to solve my problem. Worse, rumors have it that he relished in my disadvantage.
Years later, we met at a bar. He was fishing for ideas on how to build a brand for a social media agency. He wanted to emphasize the potential for the advertising business model in social media. I told him that social media wasn’t about banner ads. It was about people. Anyway, after two too many whiskeys, he complained to me in tears that he has no friends. Just whiskey.
I told him that he won’t have good friends until he serves as a good friend to others. But the light bulb did not go off for him.
The moral of the story is that those who keep no accounting of their debts may, in fact, not intend on friendship. Keep your eyes open for those careless with their debts.
Can you name a few friends that are careless with their debts of friendship with you?
Of course, we may not always succeed in being fair and just in our interactions with friends. Our debts may be way beyond our means, today. But if we keep a good account of things (especially our debts), we are more likely to succeed in our relationships. Our friendships are more likely to be richer and deeper exchanges of ourselves with each other.
Online v. Offline
The economics of friendship applies equally online and offline. They apply to connections and relationships. But like everything else online, people tend to pay more attention to the metrics. And those who do not intend friendship, they actually pay more attention to their performance. In other words, their interest is all about their advantage.
Those who pretend to be friendly will take more than they give and they never intend to give back. Or, at least, not as much as you have given. But I don’t think we can blame the internet for the apparently overwhelming number of takers that seem to be online. I don’t believe there’s more takers online than offline.
Obviously, those people live in the offline too. But if you notice a lot more takers online it’s only because you are connecting with a lot more people online than offline. The social web, in fact, is a multiplier of reach, connection, and relationship – even if that multiplication is clumsy and awkward. The problematic of multiplying social interaction and action, however, is as much about the one-dimensional interaction models of the platform as it is about the commitment of users to drive meaningful change in the platform.
If Google Plus was really cool, they’d enable 25 person video conference chats. The five by five of video boxes would be spiffy.
Not enough bang?
Facebook is not rocket science or genius as the Zuckerberg movie, The Social Network, wants to suggest to us. Even if Facebook has more than enough money to envision a better social product, they lack the genius. Obviously, Zuckerberg is not the genius he thinks he is. Of course, he is rich enough for him to afford to be confused on the matter.
What is more interesting than Zuckerberg is that we tend to bring greater expectations about the economics of friendship in the online context. We expect clicks, likes, tweets, retweets, mentions, comments, etc. from our online friends and yet, we often don’t give as much as we expect. This may even be one of many reasons that most people tend to discount their online relationships when they reflect on the people that matter most to their heart.
Too many users feel that they just don’t get enough bang for the time they are putting into connecting and building online relationships with people who do not reciprocate.
Do you feel the same way?
Is a weekly comment on a blog post and the comment’s reply… real conversation?
Are frequent retweets and mentions the hard currency of online social engagement?
Are we gifts?
In a comment to my recent blog post about empty-handed and less traveled roads, Betsy Cross writes about how we, ourselves, are gifts. In the us; when we show up and we’re present with the other. In sharing what we see. In speaking our hearts.
We need to be reminded of that. Thank you, Betsy.
We need to be reminded that in the economy of friendship, it’s not all about goods and services. It’s also about strong feelings and loving strongly. Because the bottom line of friendship is people. You. Me. Us.
Friendship, therefore, is also about showing up, being present, and sharing ourselves with the other. These may be the greatest gifts that we give and receive.
The social web asks no less of us.
“Do you make it a point to validate people when they interact with you?”
Or do you impose you on them? Do you make them jump through your hoops?
Do you honor them?
Are your friends thankful for you when you show up? Do they see you as a gift?
Who am I?
On Day 343, Nisha also follows up with her own insight: “You are nothing without the people who support you.”
Nisha’s insight reminds me of a similar revelation from the rock star, Adrian Klein.
“There’s just you and I can’t be without you.”
In other words, we are not fully ourselves without good friends – friends who care about us, who trust in us, who share our story, who show up, and – who regard our dreams, hopes, and greatest aspirations as important as their own.
Good friends are very much part of who we are.
Whether we are aware of it or not, our good friends have an indelible presence in us. We carry them with us where-ever we go.
If you feel all alone in the world and empty often – you’re doing something wrong. And, maybe, the most obvious thing is that you don’t have enough good friends in the you. If that’s the case, most likely, you haven’t served others as a good friend. Because you can’t have good friends if you are not a good friend.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. This is something you can fix -as long as you have a human heart. No matter what you’ve done. Regardless of yesterday, you will find friends – so long as you are true, you give, you serve, and, above all, you love.
1000 Kisses Deep
I was talking to Adrian Klein about what a good friend is…
“Good friends – online or offline – they are nothing less than a 1000 kisses deep,” he said to me – as we finished up the recording of my podcast about my spiritual pilgrimage to Cacica.
“That’s deep,” I said.
“Thank you, dude,” Adrian replied.
I loved his metaphor. It’s beautiful. It’s got metrics. Adrian’s metaphor illuminates the interaction, passion, intimacy, economics, and commitment that is implicit in friendship.
What is a good friend?
A good friend lifts us up. They celebrate with us – especially the things that matter most. Life, for instance. Ourselves. The people written in our hearts. The amazing things we are here to do.
A good friend stands by us. They help us to keep on feeling strongly, loving strongly, and being whole-hearted as we stare into the thousand faces of our failures, trials, pain, sorrow, and disappointments.
A good friend is a gift to us. We receive them as a gift when they show up. We see their friendship as a gift. They surprise and delight us. Their presence is a cause of joy and thanksgiving.
These are just some of the things that make a friend a better friend.
When do you know (without any doubt) that you have a good friend?
And still I dig Adrian’s metaphor…
Good friends are nothing less than a 1000 kisses deep. And anything less, doesn’t really count… yet.
30 August 2011
Faryna Podcasts recently produced by Adrian Klein:
Faryna Podcast EP11 Information
The Economics of Friendship by Stan Faryna. ©2011 Some Rights Reserved.
Produced by Adrian Klein. http://www.adrianklein.co.uk
Music by Adrian Klein. Some Rights Reserved by Adrian Klein