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MARKETANALYST.US / ECONOMY & WORK

Is Venmo Making Our Friendships Too Transactional? Here's How Netizens See It

"I think the whole culture of constantly Venmo-ing each other over small expenses is a bit unsettling," says Chelsea Fagan.
PUBLISHED APR 5, 2024
Cover Image Source: Financial expert reflects on whether Venmo is making our friendships too transactional |faganchelsea | TikTok
Cover Image Source: Financial expert reflects on whether Venmo is making our friendships too transactional |faganchelsea | TikTok

Have you ever bought a coffee for a friend or grabbed a burrito for someone close to you not expecting anything in return, only to find $10 sent to you on Venmo later that day? It's nice when people pay you back promptly, but could Venmo change how we view friendships? A TikToker believes so, and judging by the responses to her video, she's not alone in her thoughts.

"I think the whole culture of constantly Venmo-ing each other over small expenses is a bit unsettling," says Chelsea Fagan (@faganchelsea), a financial expert. "It's convenient for splitting costs in group outings, but it's turned us into mini-accountants for all our relationships. It takes away the simple joy of treating each other." She shares a few instances and concludes, "For me, the essence of a close relationship is not keeping track of who owes what all the time, but rather finding joy in treating each other. But maybe that's just my less popular view."

Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok
Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok

Certainly, accountability plays a vital role in friendships. We've all encountered that one friend who seemed to take more than they gave, which might have strained the friendship. Many people in the comments acknowledged this and expressed their desire to avoid being that kind of friend by sending unprompted Venmo paybacks. "I always offer to Venmo because I never want to assume that it could be costly, or maybe my friend is tight on finances that week. But it's not a strict rule for us; we enjoy treating each other!" wrote @januarysember. "If it's just a coffee or a small meal, then just get me next time. But if it's over $20, I'll do my best to pay back as soon as possible," said another viewer.

Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok
Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok

Some pointed out that sometimes asking for Venmo paybacks is unavoidable in today's challenging economic situation. As @idohottubs explained, "Living paycheck to paycheck, dealing with debt, and trying to save money means every transaction is part of a bigger financial picture. I need my money back." Despite differing opinions, most commenters seem to align with Fagan's perspective. "My mom always said, 'Real friends don't keep score,'" shared @malalauren.

Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok
Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok

"I'm the 'get my stuff next time' type surrounded by 'Venmo me' types. I'm basically going broke," wrote Haley, which many found relatable and funny. "If I buy you something, it's a gift. I never expect anything in return. Ever," insisted another viewer. One commenter mentioned how even in the mom world, the Venmo trend is noticeable, saying, "Parents ask Venmo for the snacks or pizza their kids have at my house for play dates. Like, does hospitality not exist anymore?"

Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok
Image Source: faganchelsea | TikTok

Whether you are sharing bills with roommates or going out to dinner with pals, Venmo makes splitting expenses easier. But does Venmo make it harder for us to be kind to others without expecting anything in return, given Fagan's perspective and the opinions of her online community? There are several moral dilemmas involved in these transactions. Maybe a colleague sent you $10, yet the coffee only cost $6. What should you do with the additional $4? Does the culture of immediate gratification also make things more difficult for people who cannot afford certain things? You couldn't afford coffee yourself but that surprise cup of joe arrived at the perfect moment. With money transfers becoming quicker and easier, the expectation to repay seems more immediate than before. This can be quite stressful for some.

So, is there a right or wrong way to Venmo or exchange money between friends? It seems to depend on the individuals and the dynamics of their friendship. While discussing financial difficulties might be tough, having an open conversation with friends about how you view shared expenses can be beneficial. If you always find yourself covering the costs, maybe the issue isn't with Venmo but with the people involved (or not involved) in the transactions.

You can follow Chelsea Fagan @faganchelsea here, for more such content.

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