A group of researchers has been looking at the science behind digital pettiness – that’s like if you go out to eat with somebody and then use Paypal or Venmo to send them the exact amount of money to cover your order, down to the penny. Maybe this isn’t a surprise, but the research suggests that if you’re too particular about paying back the exact amount, it can take a toll on your friendships. Maybe you’d be better off taking your friends to the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Rhubarb Festival, which is kicking off today. They’ve even got what they say is the only rhubarb race car derby!

Is the Digital Age Making Us Petty? (Harvard Business School)

Lancaster County Rhubarb Festival

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Science has spoken: nickel and diming your friends about the dinner bill is not good.

A group of researchers has been looking at the science behind digital pettiness.

That’s like if you go out to eat with somebody and then use Paypal or Venmo to send them the exact amount of money to cover your order, down to the penny.

Maybe this isn’t a surprise, but the research suggests that if you’re too particular about paying back the exact amount, it can take a toll on your friendships.

And to be clear, it’s the exactness that’s the issue here; the researchers double-checked that.

Take a scenario like the ones they studied: you go for coffee with a friend, they pay your tab of, say, $5.95.

If you Paypal that person the exact amount, you’ve squared things financially, but as the researchers put it, the transaction is social, not just financial.

The giver isn’t necessarily focused on the precise amount of money involved.

A person who repays the coffee with six bucks instead of $5.95 is probably generating more goodwill in the friendship, and interestingly, so is a person who puts in a mere five bucks.

At least until the payer is going back through his or her credit card statements, maybe.

One last really cool bit of this research: the rules are very different when it comes to business transactions.

That same precision that would irritate your friend can actually create goodwill from a colleague, a boss, a client or a potential customer.

Because in business, it’s transparency.

Among friends, you’re just acting like the George Costanza of the group.

Meanwhile, here’s a festival requiring no precision, only enjoyment, if you’re near the town of Intercourse, Pennsylvania…

Yes, I’m going to just leave that right there.

Today is the first day of the two-day Lancaster County Rhubarb Festival, where there’s plenty to eat, of course, and plenty to do, from the rhubarb costume parade, to the rhubarb Whoopie Pie-filling contest to what they say is the only rhubarb race car derby.