Sunday, May 28, 2006

Gifts, Friends, and "The Rockstar Fallacy."

Recently a friend of mine from a long time ago, in a universe far, far away reviewed a little social interaction he had with giving a free gift to a casual aquaintance. My transdimensionally communicating friend is one of those people who seems to have a knack for identifying and describing subtle social issues of intererest.

I think the heart of his free gift giving issue is here: "But the next time we bumped into each other there was a slight familiarity but mostly it was all awkwardness. Cuz we'd had a mental one night stand." The analogy to the one night stand is productive, for it makes one ask, "Why might such a thing be considered a bad action?"

Apparently sexuality is one of the few valuable things that we supposedly reserve as a special marker for unique relationships. But if the marker is used w/o the affirmation of the relationship, something is amiss. (Exactly *what* is amiss would vary from person to person, I'd think.)

I'm guessing that gift giving is the same way: physical gifts (as in objects) indicate something of a special type of relationship.

Social friendliness of too high a quality might work this way. As a thought experiment, imagine standing in line for the bus and treating a complete stranger as if they were your best friend that you were only too happy to spend hours with. (I think a movie once called this "lonely guy syndrome.") It's an inappropriate valuation of different kinds of relationships we have.
Ultimately, this is what goes wrong with zealous religious people too: they assume that since they love god, and god loves everybody, then that love flows back-n-forth both directions. Not true, of course, as an analogous counterexample shows:. I might love Jane, and Jane might love Jack, but that dont' mean I love Jack, and that don't mean Jack loves me. In fact, I'd like the kill that bast@&^!

Sometimes people of weak psychological disposition take even socially trivial gestures too deeply. Again, a thought experiment: You're at the bus stop. Somebody makes eye contact. You say, "Hi. How's it going." They say, "Well, my mom called and she said that the car was wrecked, and she hates driving the pick-up because it makes her look like a dyke, and so she wants me to go over there and drive her to work, so I'm here waiting for the bus, yet I should be blah blah blah blah..." We've all been there.

Physical gifts can go sideways also. Here's an example: Mr Richdude makes 250K a year. Mr. Averagedude makes 25K a year. Mr. Richdude buys a gift for Mr. Averagedude that cost $200 bucks. Mr. Richdude, however, spends $200 bucks with the same abandon as Mr. Averagedude spends $20 bucks. Mr. Averagedude recognizes the gift as a high quality item, and thus affirms the friendship on this evidence. That would be a mistake on Mr. Averagedude's part. Call this fallacy in social logic, "The Rockstar Fallacy." I actually know a rockstar. This person can send extraordinary gifts with the same abandon that I buy my friend a Banana Creme Frappacino at Starbucks; however, to think rockstar actually cares about you in ways consistent with the quality of the gift would be quite erronious -- i.e. "The Rockstar Fallacy."

Finally, people are used to receiving more or less friendship behaviors per unit of time. Much depends on how one has been raised and/or what one is used to. Yet, suppose Mr. Sweet N. Nice comes along and gives a whole lot of said behaviors. Mr. Norm N. Polite thinks, "Hey, Mr. Nice really values me." Nope. It's just the Rockstar Fallacy again, but with friendship behaviors instead of money. If we were scientists, we'd see the problem as having no control variable as a standard for comparing and ranking relationships.

It's tough to be a human. Glad I've replaced my brain with an Intel inside.


At 2:41 PM, Blogger Campbell said...

I have seen this before.
A possible explanation for this awkwardness is that the recipient of the gift saw the gift as an intrusion. This depends on if the recipient is a woman. Women operate in a world of connection and intimacy, relationships are carefully gauged and the intimacy level is thoughfully noted. Following social norms, certain behaviors are expected. When these norms are crossed in a way in which someone acts too familiarly the woman can be put off. It is percieved that this person is acting "fake" or inappropriate.
You can see the same thing in women's relationships. When Ms. Super Friendly acts more familiar than the social norms of her relationship with Ms. Acts Normal dictate, it is likely that Ms. Acts Normal will percieve Ms. Super Friendly as fake or as wanting something in the way of social advancement or other.

Similarly, if one gives gifts outside of the realm of social norms this infraction can be percieved as a move for social advancement.


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