This piece is essentially about companies (mostly) leveraging the psychology of friendship in order to sell things. The focus on “powerful” people in the headline isn’t necessary (and the headline may well not have been written by the author of the piece.) >>>
How friendship became a tool of the powerful
…This is symptomatic of a more general shift in policy and business practices today. Across various fields of expertise, from healthcare to marketing, from military training to finance, there is rising hope that strategic goals can be achieved through harnessing the power of the “social”. … Informal social connections and friendships are being rendered more visible and measurable. In the process, they are being turned into possible instruments of power….
Question: Many people think that there are sources of sexual gratification — for example, pornography and prostitution — that devalue or corrupt “real” sex, the kind that happens in an intimate relationship. (Is that true?) Is the argument (or one of the arguments) of the piece above essentially that the kind of “friendship” that happens on Facebook, or that is used by marketers to sell things, essentially threatening to corrupt “real” friendship, the kind that grows organically between people who have actually met and who like each other? Is that a realistic worry?
I absolutely believe that “real” friendship is progressively becoming endangered and “fake” friendships are emerging for the sake of financial/social benefits. And sadly, most people will respond positively whether it be real or fake. As partly interpreted in Cialdini’s “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”, there are biological triggers that are involuntarily activated due to the concepts of consistency and social proof. Having said that, once one properly perceives that a “fake” friendship is arising, there are techniques to block such an occurrence in a socially acceptable manner. Consistency is necessary but “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds” (Emerson).