Deconstructing Pop Culture

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February 8th, 2008 by David Kronemyer · No Comments

“Networking” or “social networking” is a big phenomenon.  One is supposed to use one’s “network”, for example, to find a job; get letters of recommendation; seek out like-minded individuals; and the like. 

In reality, this is bogus.  There are two kinds of friends: personal friends, and business friends.  A “personal friend” gladly will deploy on your behalf.  However, that isn’t who’s in your network.  You already know them.  Rather, the people in your network are “business friends.”  And that means they make practical business calculations. 

Those calculations fall along two parabolas.  The probably can be plotted algebraically.  Only if they intersect, or define a zone of likely behavior, will the business friend do something.

The first arc is, “what have you done for me, lately.”  Unless the networkee has a well-founded expectation of reciprocal behavior on your part, and the likely need to use it, she won’t do a thing.

The second arc is, “I don’t want to get overdrawn in the favor bank.”  If the networkee does something for you, they’re going to have to call in a mark.  They need to use it, on your behalf.  If the networkee is overdrawn in the favor bank, vis-à-vis the networkees own contacts, then the chances of anything happening are remote.  The problem goes a step further, because the networkee doesn’t want to become overdrawn.  Rather, to the extent the networkee is poised to call in a favor, the networkee wants to save it.  For herself.

This creates a puzzle, which is: how does it happen that anybody knows anybody?  I have been to social functions, for instance, such as parties.  How did those people get there?  The answer is, the host invited them.  But how did the host know them?  Well, they’re “friends,” in one category or the other.  Maybe they’re not that well acquainted with the host.  They’ve been solicited, say, to make a contribution, to a charitable or political event.  How do the attendees know each other?  Possibly, they don’t.  So they’re all scurrying around like those bumper cars you used to be able to ride at the County Fair.  They’re running into each other, without the slightest clue whom their counterparts are.  Like a Bunuel movie, or one by Robbe-Grillet.  They are not part of an affinity group.  They definitely don’t comprise a network.