This entry is brought to you courtesy of slow tethered internet, which I have had to embrace of late. It’ll still be a few weeks before I have proper home internet. New digs, new connection, all that jazz. But no matter, as we have more important things to discuss.
Scientists have long held as established empirical fact that nothing bad ever happens on the internet. Jerks aren’t allowed on it, everything you read is true and there is general agreement on all counts. In this way, the internet is unlike any large-scale gathering of people. But even if this weren’t true, and the internet was full of awful people who leave awful comments on awful news websites, it would still be possible to learn things from it. I myself learn from the internet all the time, even with the limited access I’ve had recently.
I’m not just talking about Wikipedia, either. I’m mean life lessons, drawn from the not-insignificant amount of internet advice columns I read. I’m a fan of Salon’s Cary Tennis, the rather less family-friendly Dan Savage of The Stranger and sometimes Slate’s Dear Prudence. They cover a wide range of topics between them, so I get a good cross section of that part of the population that chooses to write to online advice columnists.
One of the best things about these columns is the reader comments. Since everyone has an opinion about what Mr. Such and Such should do about his rude brother-in-law, this amounts to dozens of additional lectures, life stories and pieces of advice. So, I read and learn and think about my own opinions. And I’d like to think that all that thinking has gone some way towards forming my Code To Live By.
The First Lesson I Have Learned From Online Advice Columns: Loaning Money
Money seems to make everyone a little crazy. From what I read, if you want to ruin a relationship fast, bring money into it. Despite being little bits of paper and metal with almost no actual value besides that which we attach to it, money is deep stuff. Money is linked to survival and tends to elicit powerful emotions from people, though this isn’t always acknowledged. Advice columns are full of people who are upset about money and are surprised to be so.
A typical situation:
X and Y are related, or friends. Y gets in a jam, asks X for a cash loan. X agrees, wants to help, has the resources or considers themselves generous, etc.
There may be a conversation at the time like,
X: Y, I want to help you out. Just do whatever it takes to get better/get those hired goons off your back/win that poker tournament, and don’t worry about paying me back until you can.
Y: You are awesome X. But don’t be silly. Of COURSE I will pay you back the moment I can.
*warm fuzzy feelings all around*
The financial situation eventually improves for Y, but the money is never mentioned again. X starts to feel angry, not because they need the money (or maybe they do), but mainly because Y doesn’t even start talking about paying it back and instead buys a new TV. X doesn’t want to bring it up, because they feel it will be awkward. They also feel guilty for feeling angry at X, because money is supposed to be petty and good people are naturally above wanting possessions and thinking about money and buying groceries and all that. Gradually, the relationship becomes irrevocably damaged because X can’t be around Y without thinking of the money and wondering how Y could be the kind of person who doesn’t care enough to repay someone who was kind enough to help them.
You could say that the moral of this story is that if someone gives you a loan, no matter how vague the circumstances of re-payment, pay back the goddamn money.
But people are stupid. Just watch Judge Judy. People will convince themselves that the person lending didn’t actually WANT the money back, that it was a gift and people who loan money with the expectation that it will be returned one day are mean and hateful and don’t have souls, or that it doesn’t matter because X has a better car than them anyway and doesn’t really deserve the money back, especially because Y had a terrible childhood and X once said something at a party about how Y wasn’t very good at soccer.
Did that make any sense? No it didn’t. Because people are stupid.
Hence, I have devised three rules regarding the loaning of money.
Everyone: Try not to ask family and friends for money if you can possibly avoid it. People don’t generally like to have less money than they currently have.
Potential Lenders: Don’t loan money if you’re not ok with the possibility of not getting it back. People prefer to have more money than they currently have. If they can think of an excuse to not give you back money you have given them, it’s likely they’ll run with it. If you like someone, and have extra money and would like to help them, consider the possibility of a donation.
Also, call me.
Recipient of Loan : If the first two pieces of advice are ignored and you are loaned a sum of money by a family member or friend, PAY IT BACK. If it’s going to take a long time, let the person know. Fact: people would much prefer to get $5 a month from you, rather than embarrassed silence. That $5 says, “I may not have much, but I honour our agreement and appreciate what you did for me, so here is proof of that”.
And that is what I think about loaning money. I also hear that banks are prepared to loan you money, though they tend to be much less cool with you buying a pet monkey with your spare money afterwards, instead of giving it back to them.