You Are a Flake

Last Wednesday, I canceled long-standing dinner plans with a friend mere moments before said dinner by sending a text. We rescheduled for Friday, but I got held up at work last minute, so I had to cancel again, this time via Gchat. I'm a flake and, if you're a young 20-something, you probably are too.

Technology has made planning effortless. So effortless, in fact, that we often don't even realize when plans have been "made," so cancelling is a non-issue. You don't even have to make a phone call to hear your friend's disappointment. They're probably not even all that disappointed. It was probably half expected.

We are a generation averse to commitment, preferring instead ad hoc planning and rescheduling. Gone are the days of rushing to, or waiting for an appointment. Running late to the restaurant? No big deal. Just send a courtesy text: "Running late. Can you order me the X?"

RSVPs are of a bygone era. People send invites to parties via Facebook, but by no stretch of the imagination is a Facebook RSVP a good parameter for estimating guests. As the host, to confirm, a follow-up email or text is advisable.

I became acutely aware of this flaking phenomenon when rendered phoneless for a week. A whole 7 days. Planning now entailed forethought. I couldn't walk out the door counting on Google Maps to show me the way. I couldn't call a friend en route to a bar and suggest we go elsewhere. I couldn't... cancel. That week, conversations went mostly like this:

Me: I'm leaving in 5. Are we still on?

Friend: Yep.

Me: Okay, remember, I don't have a phone. I'll be there in 30.

Friend: Got it.

Me: That means you have to be there in 30.

Friend: OK.

Angst-ridden control freak? Maybe a little. But, with a phone, it is entirely conceivable that, within that 30-minute window, something else came up, otherwise shifting plans entirely and soliciting a brief cancellation via text.

Not only are we flaky, we're impatient. Just a few years ago, every occasion had a standard 15-minute grace period. Now? No way. Now, if left waiting for even two minutes, it is entirely normal to send a, "Hey, I'm inside. Where are you?" query. After all, if your friend ran into trouble finding parking, a similar, "Parking. Be there soon," update is only to be expected.

In this "Total Noise" culture, we are inundated with updates. The constant streaming news cycle pales in comparison to updates from friends. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Foursquare. We share pictures, opinions, locations -- everything. And we share them constantly. This also exacerbates our flakiness, as we are acutely aware of all that we're not doing.

I'm sure, if you belong to the aforementioned young 20-something population, you're familiar with the following phenomenon:

You've made plans to do X, passing up social opportunity Y. When enjoying yourself doing X, you naturally take out your phone and do a quick scan: text, social media, email -- pick your poison. On Instagram, you see your friend uploaded a picture from missed opportunity Y. It looks like a good time. You feel a tinge of remorse. Then you get a text from friends urging you to come, insisting it's "so fun!!!" The remorse builds. All of a sudden, X turns lackluster. So, you flake.

This all-too-common phenomenon manifests into what young 20-somethings know as FOMO, or "fear of missing out," which is, at this point, nothing more than a clichéd acronym to explain the status quo.

Technology offers much that should be celebrated. With the click of a few buttons, we can catch up with old friends, download the latest news, and navigate our way to the restaurant. But, as with most things, technology too has its pitfalls. Thanks to cell phones and social media -- making both plans and people immediately accessible or disposable -- we are groomed to become commitment-phobic flakes. Which, trust me, is a disposition that threatens much more than commitment to dinner plans...