Forgive the quasi-pretentious title. I’ve been thinking about “flakiness,” the quality of being a flake, for a while and it seems to have some qualities, at least at the broad-brush stroke level, that are worth delineating.
The first thing to notice is that being a flake is on the rise. Indeed, I would submit that flaking’s rise has been concomitant with rise of texting, as opposed to the phone call (who even calls anymore?), as the dominant form of communication between and among friends and potential romantic partners (e.g., Tinder). And the second, related connection is that flakiness is more prevalent among Millenials, especially those under the age of 30, most of whom don’t know what it’s like to live without a full spectrum of television entertainment, cell phones, the internet, texting, etc.
Let me circle back for a moment: as we have become allergic to phone calls, and texting’s star has risen, flakiness has flourished. There seems to me a fairly obvious connection here: it’s much easier to flake via text than it is on the phone. The phone puts a person on the spot: what time are we getting together? do you want to go this party? All this requires an immediate “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” With texting, we can ignore or wait to answer, or not answer at all – I’m just now seeing this! Sorry! – at our whim.
Texting also makes it easier to lie (let’s not sugercoat it): I forgot about these plans I made, I have to cancel. I forgot about this work dinner I have tonight. Sorry! A friend from out of town just showed up! OMG, this project at work is just taking longer than I thought.
It’s much harder to lie to someone’s “voice” on the phone; texting, you can blithely tap in a few characters and wash your hands of it. It doesn’t feel as dirty.
And this is an important point to establish. The vast majority of the time we flake — and I am not excluding myself from this — we are simply not telling the truth. Perhaps we got a better offer that sounds like more fun, perhaps we are just tired or lazy and don’t now feel like doing what we committed to . . . it doesn’t matter: we are not being honest with those flake on. We make time for the people and the things that are important to us — the flake’s excuse does not get the benefit of the doubt.
All this is not so say that Millenials are somehow more mendacious than previous generations. But it is to say that the technology they have surrounding them, embedded in their lives, has made flaking easier and therefore, if not socially acceptable, at least much easier to rationalize.
Any summation here along the lines of “let’s everyone stop flaking, guys!” would be silly. People do not change their behavior that easily. But perhaps if we’re more cognizant of what we’re doing –pre- or post-commitment — we might be less likely to say “yes” in the first place or fabricate an excuse when the time comes to put your money where your mouth was. Maybe the next I’m about to flake, I’ll remember I wrote all this. Maybe the next time I get flaked on, I’ll just send a link to this post.