I loved it when on Thursday night I read the phrase, "We have always wanted Google to be a company that is deserving of great love." in Larry Page's dispatch that appeared on the company's website for investors and Page's personal profile on Google Plus. Of course the over-use of the word "love" (seven times in his 3,459 word "2012 Update from the CEO") brought a wry smile to my face. The exaggeration seemed to me to take the weight out of that hefty word: love.
Yet I was strangely moved. In the way we always are, despite the jaded, skeptic, ironic, maybe more practical and realistic side to ourselves scoffing at us for being so naïve. Indeed, Google's declarations of "doing no evil" and "trying to make the world a better place" may not inherently differ from the official politically-correct spiel of many other major companies. Page's fervent wish for Google "to be loved" may also have more to do with increasing revenue and profit (therefore, money), or endeavoring to close some enemy fronts and win users hearts back (leading to unhindered development and profit, thus... money) than with the four letter-word. Yet I can think of nothing for which I would risk being duped or disappointed, other than love.
The following day, I was shocked to read some of the negative or ironic feedback the use of this evidently subversive word by a company CEO, generated in some circles. "It's a megalomaniacal goal when a person says they want the world to love them or their creation", one critic said speaking to the Financial Times.
Since when? And more importantly, why? Especially if that person or company want to be deserving of our love! Why does it have to be all about the money? Isn't it crazy to forbid love from an aspect of life? This prohibition is also in striking contrast with how intimately people feel about the Internet and the companies that dominate its world. How they trust them and become dependent on them -- emotionally and practically.
Less than half of the public trust financial services and banks to do what is right, making them the least-trusted industries for the second year in a row, according to an annual survey by public relations firm Edelman. Trust in government officials, regulators and chief executive officers as "credible spokespeople" dropped the most in the 12-year history of Edelman's Trust Barometer survey. However faith in technology and the Internet has remained steady, despite the sector's incontrollable growth, with a staggering 79 percent of those who participated in the survey, saying they trusted it. Combined with the intimacy and sharing the Internet commands and provides, love is only a stone's throw away from this leap of faith.
I must confess I do love the Internet. At an impressionable age, I gave my heart -- and probably an extensive amount of information about me! -- to Google because it was free and because through it I researched my way from adolescence to adulthood and from there to maturity. Nowadays I am a Twitter, Skype, iPad, Kindle, and Blackberry devotee. Quite a few years ago when the Internet was something you did alongside your life, instead of your life being something that happened to you while you were online, the place in our hearts that Internet companies now occupy through their products and creations, was held by beloved friends and family. If this infatuation that grew into a permanent relationship (with its fair share of dependency and addiction!) is not also related to love, I don't know what is.
That said, no person, let alone company, can survive on love alone, no matter how much you may try.
Even if, for a short period of time you manage to, you may well find the love another holds for you, evaporating or turning to strife as the money well dries up. Cinderella becomes loved by the man she loves but she also gets a kingdom thrown in as well, for good measure! In Sex and the City, Carrie comes to the Big City to find "love". She finally, exhaustingly, manages to do so in the arms of an implausibly romantic Mr Big who conveniently also happens to be a multi-millionaire (and hunk). Now that is a happy end!
Even in perfect lives and fairy tales, you cannot survive without some combination of love and money. That the corporate world does not accept the bald truth of this fact does not really surprise me. One has only to take a look at the financial mess the money-generating world has landed the U.S. and Europe in, to realize the toll their conviction that business is "really, only about the money" is having on all of us. To realize the toll this stubborn misunderstanding is taking on the companies themselves, one has only to look at how public opinion, even their clients are regarding them: with every negative emotion ranging from suspicion, loss of respect and trepidation, to full-blown rage and hostility. This shows up in financial results too and it is not pretty.
Sure, a company always has to be about the money -- and how to make more of it in order to make shareholders happy. It also has to be about engaging in lawful and ethical behavior that creates respect and -- a reasonable amount of -- trust. Why, if it does all that, shouldn't it aspire to be loved by consumers? To be deserving of love. Who forbade love and said it should all be only about the money? Are they that scared they wouldn't be loved, or is it just because they know they don't deserve to be loved? In this Larry Page is right, I think, when he writes, "But we recognize this (deserving to be loved) is an ambitious goal because most large companies are not well-loved, or even seemingly set up with that in mind."
Love is inherently scary, like all "major" stuff. It's right there, in the big league, together with Life and Death. Nothing scares me as much as the fear that I may love someone but they may not love me. It is a risk you can never eliminate. That is where "deserving" comes into the equation. We may not be able to control who we love yet as adults we can all recognize the concrete steps a person or company takes, to become deserving of our love. Therefore, mixing love with business can become less fraught with risk.
Yet, to me, it's scarier to think that a person or group of people (company) who affect and often define me, are a daily presence in my life, know my most intimate secrets and are privy to even my craziest thoughts and searches, may not care about acting in a manner that deserves my love.
So in a way I get Google: Kike a few other major online companies, they have touched and daily affect so many peoples' lives (almost all of us) that a bond is created. This attachment is, of course, based on mutual self-interest, dependency and on expediency. It is more than that however. Like all things that start off as entirely interest-based (work) or gut-based (sexual attraction), our relationship with Google has also become deeply emotional. We are afraid it might betray us, using everything it knows about us, in some dire or merely lucrative way. Google is afraid we might abandon it and choose someone else over it. As for the need to be loved, it precedes, infinitesimally, even the need to love. It is our greatest strength but also what ultimately makes us most vulnerable.
It is what makes the Internet human in peoples' eyes. It is what makes HuffPost a community, a family. It is what, for today's teenagers, makes life before the mobile Internet, before Instant Messenger, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and so many others, inconceivable. The need Google expressed, to be loved, to be found deserving of love is nothing more than putting to words a reality all we tech-geeks have come to realize: that the Web is alive. So, like with every creation, love inevitably has become one of the defining factors of the Web and the Internet companies that play a major part in our lives. Whether we like it or not, we are all susceptible to love.
Follow Amalia Negreponti on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@aliama