In his book "Silicon Snake Oil, astronomer and author Clifford Stoll wrote that "electronic communication is an instantaneous and illusory contact that creates a sense of intimacy without the emotional investment that leads to close friendships."
Little wonder, then, that so many of our relationships seem to be derailing or losing their connectivity, intimacy and depth of likability. But no matter. If you're feeling friendship-deficient, uSocial, an Australian marketing company, will save you the time and trouble of creating your own friendships by "buying" you a few thousand buddies on Facebook for a couple of hundred dollars. What's more, if you act now, they'll give you a 30% discount (really, this is no joke).
So, if need to feel like a 'somebody' by being the friend of someone who's popular, or need to have someone like you, or need to fill a void, just ante up! Money talks and it says: "buy or sell your friendship!"
Trading for friendship and self-sacrifice
While many may scoff at the superficiality and inanity of this, many of us actually do "trade" for friendship, albeit not with money.
For example, many people try to cultivate friendship by doing things for others in the hope of buying their approval – and their friendship. Couples trade with one another. We trade at work with colleagues and bosses, at home with partners, children and parents, in the outside world with neighbors and others. We sacrifice our own selves, our integrity, our time, our power and autonomy, even our hopes and dreams, to please others so we can feel accepted, loved and "be their friend".
In fact, many people sacrifice their life force so they can be accepted by someone whose "friendship" they feel they desperately need. They'll actually shun relating to particular co-workers, or bosses, or relatives in order to be accepted by someone else whose friendship they value more.
Other ways people sacrifice their life for others include: putting plans on hold; owing someone something; holding off making important choices and decisions without first asking their "friend"; feeling guilty when making a decision that their "friend" disagrees with; constantly seeking approval; and entering into co-dependent relationships.
Controlling others to garner friendship
One of the most insidious behavior patterns people use to "buy" friendship is that of controlling others. For example, do you ever act like a victim, feign an emotional or physical illness or helplessness so that a "friend" will save you, rescue you or "heal" you? Do you ever overtly or covertly threaten to withhold or withdraw your friendship if a "friend" doesn't "do" something? Do you ever say "It's your turn" to take care of you? Do you feel you need a "friend" to consistently complete your activities or tasks because you're too stressed, anxious or overwhelmed? Do you offer friendship as a "reward" that can be earned for doing what you want someone to do for you?
On a deeper, more abusive level, do you ever threaten a friend with your own self-destruction to keep their friendship? Or do you try to gain others' friendship by telling them how essential they are to your life?
Probably the most unconscious and unhealthy way people seek to gain and keep friends is through accommodating - in other words, by doing whatever it takes to please another in order to gain or keep their friendship.
We accommodate when we tell others what we think they want to hear or do for others what they want, even though such actions might go against our own values or moral code. Short of paying outright for it, accommodating is the most common way people buy another's friendship. Sometimes we'll foot the bill and actually pay whatever it takes to make or keep a friendship.
Why we buy friendship
From a very early age, we have a profound need to relate and be related to. We need contact, warmth, and human relationships. As young children we had the capacity to be our true and real self, but our parents and primary caregivers, given their own imperfections and struggles (as all parents and primary caregivers experience - it's the human condition), were unable to see and appreciate this. So, we interpreted their "rejection" as meaning: "your being 'real' will lead to the absence of love, warmth, holding and security".
- How do you define friendship?
- How would your friends describe their friendship with you?
- How well do you know your "social network" friends. Really.
- How well do you know your actual real-life friends? Really.
- Do you ever use controlling or accommodating behaviors to keep a friend?
- Do you ever sacrifice your self, your plans, your energy, your time, etc., to keep friendships?
- Are you ever lonely?
- Do you feel your parents, friends, partner, and/or spouse are "genuine" friends?
- Would you invite your friends to share in a holiday dinner with your family? If not, why not?
- Are you ever critical of, judgmental about, or embarrassed by, your friends?
- Are your friends trusting and trustworthy? As their friend, are you?
- Do your friends allow you to be you?
- Do your friends ever try to fix, rescue or save you. You, them? How so?
- What was your experience of friendship like when you were growing up?
The needy adult
So in growing up, we learned to pretend, to be like them, to join them in their world of illusion and lies – the conventional world. As part of the human condition, most of us learn to become what our parents and primary caregivers wanted us to be, focusing on what they paid attention to in us, what they preferred in us, what made them relate to us. And so we learned to "accommodate" and please them in order to gain their love, acceptance, and approval.
Now, as adults, we find ourselves behaving in often self-limiting and self-destructive ways we feel will get us others' love, approval, and acceptance – their friendship - even paying a couple of hundred dollars for a thousand "friends."
Authentic friendship is an "inside job"
Essence is a heart and soul quality. Living one's life is not about pleasing others, having a full dance card or bragging that we have a host of superficial "friends". The foundation of conscious, healthy and real friendships comes from within, from accessing our inner confidence and self-worth, not from controlling others, accommodating others or responding to their controlling behaviors.
Gaining confidence and a sense of self-worth means facing our fears of abandonment, guilt, shame and low self-esteem and then "doing the personal work" to move through these fears and insecurities and to get in touch with our true self. And this has the added benefit of bringing with it friendships that can be defined by quality, not quantity.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world". Especially the thousands you can buy for money.