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« Worth a million words | Main | The pricing formula (S&S) »

Trading favors

Now that everyone has a media platform, look for even more of the mutual back scratching that comes from tracking favors.

The most corrosive sort of this network amplification goes like this: I do something for you unasked. Then I do something again. Perhaps I even tout you or your work a third time. Then I come to you, point out how generous I've been and ask for you to do something for me. Or I network my way to one person and then use that platform to reach three more, and repeat until I've worked the entire digital room.

Humans have a natural openness to reciprocity. It's a time-honored survival technique, one that allowed us to live together in villages for millenia. Someone who doesn't reciprocate is less likely to be protected by his peers, right? Not only have we been taught reciprocation since birth, but it feels right. It's baked in.

The problem occurs when the trading of favors become mercenary, when alert individuals start manipulating the system for personal gain. Suddenly, every favor is suspect, measured and not at all generous. Suddenly all the likes and links and blurbs become nothing but currency, not the honest appraisals of people we can trust. It means that bystanders have trouble telling the difference between honest approval and the mere mutual shilling of traded favors.

Yes, you can trade your way up, but at some point, the very people who were influenced by all your trades start to realize that you can't be trusted.

Mutual funds deserve to be rigorously measured and relentlessly traded. Favors and taste and allegiances, though, not so much. Like is too important to be something you do because you have to.

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