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Let me speak my truth: I love you. Or I like you. Or I have feelings of nostalgia surrounding you that make me feel charitable toward you in general. Or I am polite to you because we have mutual friends and acquaintances. Whatever our level of connection, I don’t hate you.
But I do hate your MLM. Actually, to be penetratingly clear, I hate your flagrant barrage of social media posts and private messages that attempt to hard-sell your MLM to those who have not asked nor cited any interest in purchasing it. To those of you who quietly sell candles and leggings and nail polish and purses and Pampered Chef, telling friends that you are ordering later this week if they want anything, never talking about it at book club or brunch, letting your friends and family determine their own interest in what you are doing, this post is not for you.
However, if you’ve ever used the email list from your child’s classroom to mass-market your new team event*, or if you’ve ever sent an unsolicited PM to someone you don’t talk to regularly seeking a “business opportunity”*, or if you haven’t asked a friend out to lunch in 10 years but have asked if they want to get coffee anytime between 8am and 10pm this week (we all know why)*, then I am TALKING TO YOU.
*undisputed dick moves
I don’t hate that you hooked into a side gig; I’m a self-employed writer, content marketer and social media consultant. My whole LIFE is a side gig. Get paid; that’s fine. I don’t hate that about you. I do hate that you pretend (not assume, but pretend) close connections exist between you and people who are not monetarily tied to your venture’s success in an effort to make more money directly off those people. This blatantly disingenuous methodology is something people tolerate in the business world because “it’s not personal, it’s business.” But in tying your “business” to your “friendships” online and in real life, you’ve made everything, business. And in the process, in the ongoing slog of a process, that you call “hustle” and the rest of us call “contrivance,” you have lost real friends.
In past editions of this series, Bekah laid out the basics of why your MLM sucks and the nitty gritty of how it’s not a small business. Today, I need you to understand, that even if I really like you a lot or even just a little, your MLM is ruining your friendships. All of them.
Even the ones who really want to continue to like you are finding it difficult. You are no longer yourself to us. You vacillate in our minds between a social media nuisance and a social migraine. You are simultaneously the source of pity and abject ire. And it’s not YOU … it’s your MLM. Or, to be more precise, your insistent Facebook/text/email/Insta sales-pushing of your MLM. Your inability to let anything in your life be unconnected to the sell.
Here are some examples of how EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON you know is now someone who, unwillingly or not, avoids you at all costs.
Scenario 1: Hi. We were sort of friends in high school, but didn’t speak once after graduation. I like you, but I’m not an active part of your life. What I know about you all these years later is that you are married to a pharmacist that graduated 3 years ahead of us, your kids have weirdly cute names, and I occasionally compare your Instagram selfies to mine to see if you have more wrinkles than I do.
Post MLM Fallout: Your name and Facebook profile pic is now synonymous with “Sells _____.” I know nothing else about you. When I chat with other high school friends and acquaintances the only thing we say about you is that you sell _____. And that we hate it. And that it’s annoying. And that your marriage is probably in trouble because why would you bother selling _____ if you married a pharmacist? He’s rolling in it. That probably has no basis in fact but because you ONLY talk about selling ____, I can’t possibly know that.
Scenario 2: I’m a bystander in your life and vice versa. We have mutual friends, and we kind of know each other, but we’ve never been friends. We’ve never exchanged birthday presents, we don’t have a close history, and I don’t know anyone in your life for real. We just … met a few times through other people. I am you-neutral. You and I are cool, but I don’t have an actual well-formed opinion about the kind of person you are.
Post MLM Fallout: You are one of the worst people I know. You exist for me in a universe comprised solely of constant WordSwag graphics, hashtaggery and way-to-close-to-your-skin Facebook Live vids. You went through MY Facebook friends list, added my mom and my best friends who’ve never met you and used my name to try to sell them essential oils. You went from neutral to enemy combatant the first time you hashtagged #whynotyou.
Scenario 3: Hey, there. Our kids played together on a t-ball teams 3 years ago, and I can’t remember your name, but I see you a lot at Whole Foods and ask how “your little ones – not so little anymore, right?” are doing. We have a small circle of mutuals that somehow includes my barre instructor and a guy I made out with in 8th grade. I owe you $8 for that pizza party that I forgot to chip in for, and that makes me feel guilty when I see you.
Post MLM Fallout: I do not feel guilty one bit because now I know your name, but it includes the post-nominal veneration of Pink Zebra Associate Esquire, and that is sheer nonsense. I strategically avoid you in Whole Foods and at the ball fields now not because of the eight bucks, but because you’re going to ask me about hosting a party again, and we’ve never even exchanged cell numbers. If someone mentions your name, I just say:
Scenario 4: OMG HI! We grew up together. We were neighbors or cousins and learned how to ride bikes and smoke cigarettes together. Either way, 20-year-old pictures of you with a Mary Lou Retton haircut at my birthday parties are still in frames on the walls at my parents’ house. I have your cell phone number from 1998, but not your new one. Facebook was a God-send for us in ’08 because it meant we could actually SEE what each other’s kids look like. I’ve seen you four times in the last 10 years and all of those were at funerals. We always say it sucks that we don’t live in the same city anymore, even though we both know we would not hang out if we did. Our youthful closeness has given way to adult indifference.
Post MLM Fallout: Ugh. I am no longer indifferent. Why can’t you just be cool like you used to be? Like, I want to love you, but you are second-hand embarrassing me on the daily online. Instead of being proud of how close we were growing up, now I have to downplay it – IN MY OWN MIND – to be able to deal with the annoying choices you are currently making. Every interaction we have online now is suspect because I am 100% assured that if I say something funny about that picture of your son on vacation, you are going to slide into my DM’s asking if I’m using anything around my eyes.
Scenario 5: We used to be super tight. I can’t think about college without thinking about that couch you had in your first apartment. Late nights and crazy conversations aside, you were there for major moments in my life, and I for you. My parents don’t have any pictures of you on the walls, but I do. Probably wedding photos. There’s a good ten years of history between us. We might have grown apart in recent years due to life changes and adulting, but if someone asked me I would still call you a “good friend.”
Post MLM Fallout: I think you must HATE me. That is the only reason I can come up with why you would text me “Happy Thanksgiving!” for the first time in 2 years, and then 5 days later PM me this nonsense: “I noticed in your holiday pics that you weren’t wearing lipstick … have you tried LipSense?” ONLY SOMEONE WHO HATES ANOTHER PERSON WOULD DO SOMETHING THAT DICKISH. Only someone who thinks nothing of a friendship can ignore someone offline for a couple of years and then message them talking ’bout: “I’ll be in town this weekend, would love to see you and tell you about this new journey I’m on,” with a straight damn face. Bish, I know you were in town four times in 2016, and at least one of those times you were down the street and let me check … nope, not one text, so I doubt you would LOVE to see me … unless you had something to sell me.
And look, we are equally culpable in not keeping this friendship going beyond the polite social niceties of Facebook and Instagram, I admit that. I was cool with our friendship being relegated to the comment section on Instagram because even if it wasn’t close anymore, it was honest. I don’t type things I don’t mean, and I didn’t think you did either. Now, every single interaction with you isn’t honest; it’s a sales tactic. “How can I get them on my team? How can I financially benefit from our relationship?” Trying to use social subterfuge to see if an old friend will inadvertently finance your kid’s sky-rocketing student loans? Dude. There’s no two ways about it- that’s shitty.
Ok, you still have those. Because only the people who ALSO monetarily benefit from your success can stand the farce. They had to join your team, or they had to stop being friends with you. Congrats on this gross symbiosis.
But there is hope! Just … stop. Stop making thumbs up on Facebook a legitimate invitation to text someone you’ve literally never texted before. Stop letting your MLM marketing group on Facebook tell you that it’s ok to copy and paste their graphics and their sales pitches into unsolicited private messages to unsuspecting acquaintances. Be genuine. Go back to posting about things that are just about you – your life – your friends – your family – with zero connection to your MLM. Because your friends probably miss you.
Have you lost a friend to an MLM?
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