Join the Club

Facebook has announced its intention to boost its Groups feature, and has committed itself to a mission of building community. I have loved Facebook Groups, as they have allowed me to meet and better know people all over the world. But part of me is ambivalent.

"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member" may be one of Groucho's most famous quotes, but that's because so many people find truth in it. I do. I hate cliques. I hate exclusivity. And yet...

Advising business owners requires an understanding of current trends in "customer acquisition." The reality is, "VIP membership" is a huge draw for many products and services. If people look at the business landscape honestly, they recognize that personalized and customized attention has tremendous value, but comes at great cost to the provider of that attention. We have not yet figured out a way to provide an unlimited amount of attention in volume. So we must exclude.

Of course, attorneys actually have an obligation--a "duty of care"--to all clients. Conceivably, all clients are part of the "club." But in most other areas of business, it often pays to pay more attention to the customer paying more. Luckily for entrepreneurs, there are so many automated tasks that can be done for the customers who purchase less that used to require human attention.

In personal relationships, too, it makes me uncomfortable to exclude. I bought my kids a shirt, "Come Sit With Us" because I can still remember the occasional sting of being excluded from a lunch table or party. You always remember the times of exclusion. Though most of my friends in college were in the Greek system, I didn't end up in a house (I briefly rushed two, got one invite and one rejection), and, despite my love and affection for so many in the Greek system, I really believe that the system needs to go. But that's me.

I'm not saying there should be no standards to gain entrance to an organization or group. But I think there needs to be a real understanding of what undergirds those standards. So many people legitimately believe that decks are stacked. I remember that there was a "Secret Society" at my college similar to Yale's "Skull and Bones," and despite my leadership in a number of organizations, I was not accepted. I found myself singing "It ain't me! It ain't me!" to myself when the leader of the society, a US Senator's son, called me to let me know I wouldn't be a member.

And yet... it does feel nice to spend time only with those who can understand you, who know where you've been, and want you to be a part of their category. But maybe it's time to open up The Club. Beyond the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. Because, each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal, right?