With a bit of tongue-in-cheek a recent article in The Washington Post entitled, “The ‘Uber for friends’ plan to save millennials from loneliness” begins like this:
Clay Kohut’s pitch for his new app, Ameego, is so absurd that it’s best to let him deliver it.
“With Uber, you rent a stranger’s car,” he begins.
“With Airbnb, you rent a stranger’s home.” Mhmm.
“With Ameego…you rent a stranger!” What?
“It’s a logical progression,” he reassures.
The Texas-born developer and entrepreneur is, as you may have suspected, a full-on millennial, just shy of 26 years old. He’s a member of a generation in which “progress” follows slightly different rules. Upon sensing a problem — such as, say, the glut of young people who find themselves in new cities, without their old friends — Kout and his cohort hesitate but a moment before deploying apps to solve it.
Alrighty then… That’s one way to think about things that matter—commodify them. That’s what we capitalists tend to do, no? Commodify everything. Even our children, what with a trend to name them for our cherished brands. For instance, favorites include Chanel, Armani and Lexus; Porsche, Guinness and Timberland; Chivas Regal, Champagne and Pepsi.
Once upon a time, religious, family and ethnic traditions provided inspiration for naming-the-baby. Times they are a-changin’. (I wonder if parents named their little girl “Lexus” if they could get a discount from the car manufacturer—a double-down deal…)
But back to the commodification of friendship. Is this a generational thing? Am I way old fashioned to think that the most important matters in life—like robust friendship—is not something that can be commodified, in fact, must not be commodified if it’s to mean anything of significance? Am I over responding here? There’s a word for this commodification in the sex trade…
I know there’s a trend away from church affiliation in our cultural moment, but I also know a lot of people who found meaningful relationships by showing up on a Sunday, throwing in with the odd assortment of people present who expressed an interest, even commitment, in loving God and neighbor. Of course, there’s some work involved in this, some risk-taking, a willingness to engage those who don’t match all of our pre-determined qualifiers. It’s less “buying a product to suit our taste,” and more, “giving ourselves away in a spirit of generous love.” The odd thing is, up to the present moment, this latter behavior has invariably led to quality friendship. Go figure.
The Reverend Dr. Stephen Bauman