Too often in both my personal and professional life, I have become the target of users.
You know the users: They’re the slick ones with the vapid smiles, the instant homilies, the constant pandering. They approach each relationship with an agenda: Always considering the angles, always working the room, always seeking out those who can provide some sort of benefit to their goals.
You’re invited over for dinner only to find they need you to "take a look" at a problem they’re having with their computer because "you know more about these things than we do." I will gladly fix my mother’s computer but when it comes to others I’m not in the computer repair business nor do I intend to start one.
Users seek your friendship as a way to make contact with others they feel will feed their ambition. They pick your brain on a specific topic and then pass that information on as their own or use it to undercut your business.
Reporters often find themselves targets of users. They issue invites to an event not as a gesture of friendship but in the hope that I will write about it.
Users aren’t interested in friendships. They want needs-based relationships – unions that benefit them in material ways, providing "contacts" and value through "networking."
We encountered a lot of users in Washington – the ever ambitious yuppies who built "networks" of "contacts" that benefited their careers – contacts that could be just as easily discarded when the benefits ran out. Others were elected officials who cultivated relationships for political gain. It was remarkable how many politicians took my phone calls when I ran the largest political action committee in town.
We hoped our move from Washington to the mountains would, somehow, relieve us from the plague of users.
We have users here as well, those who feign friendship if it can serve an ulterior motive, forging a relationship that can fatten their wallet or give them a competitive advantage in a rural world where cooperation, not cut-throat competition, used to be the byword.
Users are too often newcomers to the scene, interlopers who see Floyd County as a community of rubes ripe for scamming. They play the angles, picking your mind for information they can later use to pick your pocket.
But Floyd is not as backwards as these users might hope. Floyd Countians quickly identify users for what they are and word spreads quickly. As opportunities cease, users realize their time has run out and greener pastures await elsewhere. They will cash out and take their scams to another part of the world.
These locusts leave behind a landscape scarred by their presence but able to recover. Floyd County thrived before the users invaded and it will survive after they leave.