With guile and creativity, social media lures us into believing that the number of friends one can pull to his or her corner determines happiness, success and one’s contribution to society.
I wish it was that easy.
Stephen Covey wrote about manipulative friendships. He called them “deceptive, encouraging people to use techniques to get other people to like them, or to fake interest in the hobbies of others to get out of them what they wanted”.
Writing in the 1980s, Covey cautioned that, “If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other – while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity – then, in the long run, I cannot be successful. My duplicity will breed distrust.”
The unhealthy nature of fake friendships is borne out in some of Robert Greene’s observations: “Having a large following opens up all sorts of possibilities for deception; not only will your followers worship you, they will defend you from your enemies and will voluntarily take on the work of enticing others to join your fledgling cult. You are adored and can do no wrong.”
And with that, the community suffers. Wendell Berry argues that “if a community withholds trust, it withholds membership. If it cannot trust, it cannot exist”.
I am heartened to note that we still have instances where real, caring friendships can be found. I recall, without end, a haunting public speech entitled “I ran out of time”.
The speaker focused on some of our relational weaknesses; the imperfections that visit our friendships every so often. But imperfection is temporary; indeed, can be celebrated.
Social psychologist Thomas Curran says “shifting our mind set to see that we’re made to make mistakes can help lessen our stress, and allow us to understand that there’s actually profound value in failing. Failure is not weakness”.
As the speaker developed her argument, it became clear that she wanted to debunk the pervasive and sugar-coated stories about networking. “Instead of spending small amounts of time with a lot of people, spend more time with a smaller number of carefully chosen people. You may find it comforting that the strength and longevity of your relationships depend more on the quality, and far less upon the quantity, of your connections.”
One of modern day’s punishments seems to be the number of times we find ourselves reviewing the value of friendships. It is as painful as self-flagellation! And it becomes more emotional when we realize that we lost value in the friends we viewed as distractions.
The speaker suggested that friends should help us develop the seemingly elusive attributes of faithfulness, patience, gentleness and self-control. At times, we can only imbibe these values through painful experiences.
Charles Dickens observed in ‘Great Expectations’ that, “suffering has been stronger than all teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
Ron Carucci is an established TED speaker. The following excerpt from one of his older talks clearly shows the need to invest time in the correct people: “I’m very tired. I’ve decided that rather than making resolutions, I want to make promises. To myself, and to others. I don’t want to be another statistic among the near 80 percent who make and break resolutions weeks after the New Year begins.”
“Healthy relationships with peers lead to a happier life…peer relationships help enhance one’s interpersonal skills and leadership qualities.”
Stephen Covey esteemed what he called the character ethic. He said “it is based on the fundamental idea that there are principles that govern human effectiveness – natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and indisputably ‘there’ as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension”.
2019-05-10 09:45:52 4 months ago