Performative friendship

Published on 2024-03-02

I'm starting to realize that what the industry calls "networking" is sort of like their way of saying "making new friends"

It feels a bit silly, but I do think that realizing this had gone a long way towards reframing my understanding of what it means to "network," that is, what it means to these people, probably a lot more intersectionally normal than I am, to form connections with people.

The idea of networking stresses me out quite a bit. Probably in large part because I find talking to strangers a bit stressful in general. I think that the difference between the usual "talking to strangers" and so-called "networking" is that networking is entirely goal-orientated: there is concrete, measurable, material value to building your network. There's a value to making friends as well, of course. It's good to make friends. Friends take care of each other. It's just that, networking is not exactly in service to your community. It feels more self-concerned; it always feels like your network wants to get something more material out of you.

It makes me wonder, maybe networking would be a lot easier for me if I stopped thinking of it as a professional development thing, and rather treated it as a way to make new friends. Of course, friends don't ask each other questions like "tell me about a time you resolved a conflict with a colleague or client." I have a truly hard time believing normal people actually talk to each other the way employment coaches and life gurus tell us they do. But if not, I can't begin to imagine why so many people are so horrifyingly obsessed with this seemingly inhuman way of communicating with each other.

Building real relationships with the people with whom you're expected to network would probably give you all the benefits of networking. Friends help each other. Friends actually help each other, without expectation of some return on investment. They do it out of compassion. Those kinds of relationships are a powerful thing.

I find I don't mesh well with very career-focused crowds in large part because I don't find they emphasize the importance of these things nearly as much as I wish they would. As such, these kinds of relationships feel vapid, and self-centred. It's atomizing, and I fear that's the point.

Anyways, that's how I feel about networking. I'd be very surprised if this feels like a hot take to literally anyone.

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