I had a person the other day, hand to God, who got upset at me because I don’t “like” enough of their Facebook posts, even though they “like” all of mine.
There is a theory that in any given situation, 80% of the outcomes come from 20% of the inputs. It has been called the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, after the Italian economist who first noticed it. While it isn’t exact, the ratios work nearly everywhere.
If you own a store, 20% of your inventory make up 80% of your sales. In a church, 20% of the congregants give 80% of the money. Of the things you own, 20% of them give you 80% of your enjoyment. On Facebook, 80% of your enjoyment comes from 20% of your contacts. (When I dropped over 2000 Facebook friends a while back, I barely noticed a change at all.)
And of your relationships, 20% of them give you 80% of the value.
We tend to know this instinctively. We talk about how this person is your best friend, or we are close friends, or so-and-so is a new friend, or how we want to be better friends. We recognize there are degrees of friendship and relationship.
And we tend to act accordingly. If we get asked to do something for our closest friends – those who are in our 20% – we usually don’t hesitate. I have three or four people in my life that could ask literally anything in the world of me, and I would try to figure out how to do it. Once you get outside that circle, however, I start doing equations, asking myself things like do I really want to do the thing? Is it convenient to do the thing? How much will it cost to do the thing? And so on.
And by and large, I think we tend to be OK with this. In theory, anyway. We understand we can’t all be as close to each other as we are to some people. We don’t have the time or the emotional energy to maintain those levels of relationships. I don’t think people really get upset that we treat them differently than we treat other people. I think what gets people upset – what got this person upset – is when you are in their 20%, but they are not in yours.
And I don’t really know what to do about that.