A while back an acquaintance of mine (sort of a devolved friendship with someone I don’t really talk to or hang out with anymore) began emailing, FB messaging, and calling me to reach back out to her about “something”. Seriously, if she were a family member I’d have thought someone died with her dogged pursuit to contact me. My husband, ever talented in the art of reading people, told me, “Yeah, she probably wants to sell you something.”. I thought, naaaaah, you wouldn’t contact someone out of the blue like this for such a self-serving reason. Right? That’s just awkward and ugly.
Well, you can probably guess where this is going. When I spoke with her it was a weird, stilted conversation wherein she talked in this artificially bright voice, dropping questions about details in my life she likely gleaned from social media in an effort to convince me she actually gives a damn about it. I wondered if she thought I was so starved for acknowledgement that I wouldn’t see through this.
“I heard you published a book! That’s awesome!”
She was so impressed she didn’t know the title, that it happened over a year ago, and that I’d published several other works.
“How’s everything going with your husband?”
I guess our cancer scare didn’t come up on her wall when she did a quick review before the conversation.
“It’s been WAY too long since we last got together!”
Yup, the last time was when she came unannounced to my house right in the midst of getting my toddlers down for a nap. The sole reason for the stop was to collect baby clothes my daughter no longer used which I didn’t have ready to go at all. She insisted on waiting and then sat in my living room while I ran around collecting them. She left immediately afterward. No calls followed.
Finally, she’s gets to her pitch. She’s thinking of starting a home business selling products for women for a vendor company but has to watch an orientation video about it beforehand and wouldn’t it be fun to do it with a group of us?? Then afterward we can have a girls night, squeeee! As if I couldn’t spot the recruiting scam from a mile away. Honestly, the fact that she thought I’d see this as a sincere attempt to get together just royally insulted my intelligence.
The sad thing is it’s not like this sort of behavior–using a friendship for purely personal and mercurial advancement–is unprecedented. I’ve seen it before with invites to Mary Kay or some type of Tupperware party. And there are plenty of people who don’t mind it, I’m sure, and even have fun at these things but I wonder if it too easily falls into the situation I just went through–A hamfisted attempt to act like you care about someone in order to get them to sign up/spend money. Are people really so eager to trade in their integrity? We all know that’s done in politics but it hurts to think friendships are treated this way. Am I being idealistic here?
Indie authors are sometimes accused of doing this as well when marketing their books. I’ve seen it–authors following bloggers and then blasting them with spotlight requests on all their social media platforms, unfollowing them just as quickly if they don’t get what they want. It’s a hit-and-run with no interest in actual interaction with said blogger, as if they are just a means to an end, as if their site is run by a book promoting vending machine rather than a living person doing their best. It’s gross. And short-sighted.
Not that I’m claiming that all or even most Indies are this way. Most Indies I’ve gotten to know are wonderful people who comprehend networking as a long-term relationship thing. They promote each other. They comment on each other’s posts. They correspond. They reply to tweets and retweet one another. Okay, yes, the original move to reach out to another Indie or a blogger might be from personal interest, but the investment in the relationship is what makes it sincere. These friendships are what make this whole self-publishing/writer’s-life thing fun, especially if you’re still trying to get your name out there. I mean, let’s face it, this gig can dole out the punches. You need some pals in your corner.
Needless to say, the concept of sincerity has been on my mind since the yucky fake-friend invite thing. Obviously I didn’t go. I wish I could tell you guys that I told her off in such terms as to make her feel small and ridiculous for being such a disingenuous phony. The truth is it just made me kinda sad and I couldn’t summon the will to do it. Odd really, since I have no trouble with articulation when I see a need to stand up for someone else. Then I come shouldering in, snarling protectively. We can’t be all things at all times I suppose.
Anyway, that’s what I want to leave you with–heavy and potentially cliche as it is for a Monday–the thought that we need more sincerity in this life. Because the truth is when we’re open and genuine with each other the world is simply a brighter place to live in.