Consider this: There are no rules against sending your friends money. Some people might find it “weird” or “creepy,” but that’s more about their ability to accept love from others than it is about you. You don’t have to send them much. I’m not suggesting you gift them $20 for no reason. (There is, in fact, a rule about giving people $20 specifically: It should only be given in crisp bill form, tucked within a flowery Hallmark card whose cover reads “To a special granddaughter on her birthday.” Do not break this rule and upset the universe.) But if you’re still confused, allow me to help. With years of practice, I’ve developed a pretty good rubric for how to do a Good Venmo.
The altruistic Venmo sweet spot is anywhere from $3 to $7. (There’s a different Venmo practice known as “penny poking” where users request or send pennies to each other to say “hi.” The altruistic Venmo is meant to serve a purpose beyond the notification.) The point is to give your friend a specific designation for the money. Maybe your friend loves lattes, or a specific type of cheese from Trader Joe’s. Maybe you two have an inside joke about Orbit gum. Whatever it is, it should feel like a treat, not an insult to your friend’s bank account. Which brings me to my next point.
Most of us don’t need the charity. We could buy ourselves the latte or gum. What we need, in our moments of despair, is for someone else to remind us of the things that make us happy, and gently insist we take the time to experience those things. This is about giving your sad friends permission to take a small reprieve from their shitty days. When I send my friends a few dollars on Venmo, what I’m really saying is: “I am so sorry your day is so shitty, and I wish I could give you a hug and bring you a cookie. But I can’t because I also have to be at my job. So instead I want you to leave your godforsaken office and go get yourself a cookie because you deserve it.”
Just like that, your friend is touched and you are a hero. Booyah, baby! But wait, this is where I let you in on a teensy little secret. Whispering: Sending my friends money on Venmo is just as much for me as it is for them. Doing nice things for people I deeply cherish also makes me feel good. I know it sounds messed up and possibly illegal, but again, I checked and there are no rules against this. We are allowed to take joy in bringing other people joy, no fine print. While sending the dutiful “ugh im sorry” text makes me feel like shit for being an unimaginative friend, taking a few extra minutes to send them a thoughtful Venmo makes me feel like an unstoppable force. It’s my creative rebellion in the face of the corporate death march. If I get canceled for being too sincere, so be it! The adult world can be grim. I need this.
The open-handed Venmo is an antidote to the emotionless, transactional world. It’s the opposite of “connecting” with someone on LinkedIn, or “hoping this email finds you well!” It’s proof that kindness, when you think about it, is actually kind of punk rock.
So the next time one of your friends is feeling sad—this should only take 30 minutes or so—try sending them a little treat in the form of a small-sum Venmo. They’ll feel good. You’ll feel good. And when we’re all feeling good, that’s when we rally together, high off selflessness or selfishness or some blend of both, and realize we’re a self-contained economy that circulates the same five dollars! Armed with that knowledge, perhaps we withdraw from mainstream culture completely. We start a small commune in rural Maine, where our days are spent sending, receiving, or waiting for our turn to send or receive The Venmo. It’s a deeply fulfilling life, but can it last? After the summer, as the cold sets in, people start to defect. Word gets back to the commune that some defectors have called it a cult. “They don’t understand the cause,” you tell yourself. By winter, infighting and lack of food causes the remaining members to slowly return to their previous depressing adult lives. It’s just you out there, the one true believer in The Venmo. But you can’t send and receive money to yourself. You need others. That’s when you have an idea to recruit new members: Pitch an article to WIRED magazine.
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