A Beginner’s Guide to Flaking

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Scenario: You make plans to meet a friend for drinks Friday night at 8. At 5pm you text them, “Still on for tonight?”

What are the possible responses, and how do you know if they’re flaky?

The True Confirmation

Flake rating: 0 (Not Flaky)

Reaffirms your plans (and means it). Shows up for drinks. Totally great and not flaky.

The Fake Confirmation

Flake rating: 1 (Deceptively Flaky)

Texts you back at 5 saying you’re definitely still on for drinks, then follows up an hour or two later (or worst-case, just before 8) with some kind of reversal message. Something came up, they can’t make it, or they just don’t feel like going out any more. The message probably contains some kind of self-deprecating statement like, “I know, I suck” or “I’m literally the worst!”

the worst

The Chronic “Maybe” Case

Flake rating: 2 (Maybe Flaky)

Catchphrase: “I’m not sure I can make it, but I’ll try!” It’s the friend who can neither confirm nor deny if she’ll be able to follow through with your plans…ever. Are they really unsure, or is “maybe” just their nice way of saying no? This one probably depends on the person. If they have an unpredictable job or a busy family life, the “maybe” may be for real. If not, they may just be stringing you along, which definitely makes them flaky.

The “Sorry, something came up!”

Flake rating: 3 (Flaky)

Vague and unoriginal, but at least this person thought you were important enough to not leave hanging. There’s about a 75% chance this is a total lie and they couldn’t be bothered to come up with a more specific excuse to ditch you. Or maybe they did actually have something come up last minute that’s more important than your plans together. Either way, definitely flaky.

The Zero-response No-show

Flake rating: 4 (Frustratingly Flaky)

Unacceptable. End friendship. You don’t need this kind of person in your life.

not cool

I’m kidding, but really, unless a true emergency happened to prevent this person from contacting you, there’s no excuse to both not respond and not show up as planned – not with all the ways we have to get in touch with someone.

But the same tools making it easier to contact our friends have contributed to an influx of those friends flaking out on us. Technology makes flaking easier than ever before; you can cancel plans via text or Facebook faster and easier than you could ever cancel face-to-face. Technology makes flaking more convenient (for the flaker) and less socially awkward.

“Nothing lets us so seamlessly shed our commitments quite like a text.” – Kata Hakala, Mic.com

Still, just because we can ditch plans more conveniently doesn’t mean we should. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a flaky text, you know how frustrating it can be. (Especially if you’re in touch with the kind of flaker who tells you they can’t make it for drinks only after you’re already waiting at the bar.)

I think part of the flaking issue stems from an unacknowledged disagreement among friends about Acceptable Flaking Protocol (AFP). Facebook invites are a great example of the disconnect in people’s idea of AFP. Does joining a Facebook event have the same value as a verbal commitment to attend an event? If you join a Facebook event and then can’t actually make it, are you obliged to change your online response to a no? If you don’t change your response and you don’t go, are you flaking? And are all these rules different depending on the event itself (size, location, host)?

idk (shrug)

Then there’s the whole issue of the flaking time frame. How long before an event or commitment should you give notice that you can’t make it? Does AFP suggest 24 hours, an hour, 5 minutes? Again, does it depend where you’re going and who you’re with?

The question isn’t why we’re flaking – we all know why.

cancelling plans

The question is how technology will change our communication patterns, and how we’ll have to create new social rules to deal with the changes.

For now, I’m left waiting for a universally recognized AFP.

My Vacation Mass-Comm Detox

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For the first time in my life I made Spring Break plans – a couple of friends and I took a road trip to Savannah and Charleston – and I was determined to make this a real vacation for myself. I decided to help my travels feel more like that vacation by doing a serious tech/social media detox for the duration of the week.

On our way out the door, my roommate saw my computer on my desk and told me not to forget it. I said I wasn’t bringing it with me. She looked at me like I had grown a second head and that head told her I now hated chocolate, kittens, and all things good in the world.

“I’m taking a real vacation,” I said. “No laptop.”

that's a terrible idea

I’ve come to think of my laptop as a sort of ball-and-chain in my life, tethering me to all the work I have to do for school and my internship. Sure, it can be for fun/meaningless internet browsing as well, but since I’m usually doing that to procrastinate from taking care of my responsibilities, even the fun part now has an ominous work-undertone. I knew if I brought my computer with me I would feel pressured to use it for work…so I left it.

I brought my cell phone with me, but I refused to let that dominate my time or pressure me to work either. I kept it charged for potential emergencies, but I didn’t let myself use it for any bored social media scrolling or work/internship email-checking. (Actually, that Heelmail outage was a great help. All I had to do was wait to reconfigure the email settings on my phone until after I got back to school, and I didn’t have to feel compelled to keep checking it on my vacation.)

I didn’t use Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, or any of the other social media sites I normally frequent while on Spring Break. I only pulled out my phone to text family and friends when I was traveling from one city to the next. (Ok, and once or twice to use the GPS to navigate in the unfamiliar downtown areas.)

Overall this was one of the best vacations I have ever had, and I believe that had a lot to do with my mass-comm detox. I feel like my life is really wrapped up in work all the time – I have a Sakai message about a school assignment, an email from my internship about a new project, a text from my boss asking me to pick up a shift – to a degree made possible by our mass-comm technologies. Leaving the tech behind helped me leave work behind, which allowed me to have a much more relaxing vacation.

I highly recommend ditching the computer/tablet/cell on your next getaway.

Smart(er) cars

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At the beginning of the semester we did a quick write-up on how we predicted mass media and interaction would look in the future. I wrote that our media technology would become even more essential to our lives, becoming less about devices we carry around and more about the physical spaces we exist and interact in – namely, smarter cars and houses.

I’ve now got proof that my predictions were correct! At least in terms of smart(er) cars. I found this list of up-and-coming developments in auto technology. Here’s a few media and communications related developments:

1. Built-in Wifi

If you asked me to identify a single technological advancement that I thought would become a part of our near-future, I would have said getting Wifi in cars. Let’s be honest – it feels like the next logical step. If you’ve ever been on a long road trip, you’ve probably wished at some point or another you could get internet access to help you pass the time (I sure have). Maybe you’re stuck in an epic traffic jam, with no end in sight. Or maybe your GPS lost its signal because you’re driving out in the boonies. Internet in cars? Yes, please. Currently, Buick, GMC, and Chevrolet offer built-in 4G LTE Wifi hotspots in select vehicles, but I think this will soon become a universal feature across car companies.

2. GPS Traffic Analysis

Speaking of GPS, we’re getting a lot of advancements in GPS and traffic communications that come straight from your car, too. Many vehicles come with built-in GPS systems now, but the next step is the kind that comes with traffic analysis systems and real-time traffic information. Acura now offers a Real-Time Traffic feature with their GPS system that allows users to avoid accidents, bad weather conditions, and construction on their trip. There’s also a traffic light information system being developed which will alert drivers when the next green light will be – and how fast they have to drive to get there.

green light alert

3. Built-in Phone Access

Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay allow important phone information to sync and be displayed on car dashboards. These developments are great examples of responding to the public and consumer demands. People use their phones when they drive – even when it’s dangerous – so the companies responded with what the public wanted: easier access to their cell phones while driving. I’m not sure how much this truly increases people’s safety (seeing as they’re just shifting their focus from one screen to another) but the development has potential.

phone on dash

4. Voice Recognition

This is a pretty cool, sci-fi type advancement: UConnect, installed in a number of vehicles for Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, and Jeep, uses voice recognition software to communicate with drivers. For instance, you can ask your car “Where is the nearest gas station?” and the car will respond with directions, etc. It’s also worth noting that combining this voice recognition software with the phone-dashboard software from #3 could eliminate the dangers of fiddling with a screen while driving.

5. Crash Detection

An expansion of roadside assistance services like OnStar, the latest on crash detection software in cars can automatically dial 911 and dispatch help to the scene of an accident. Companies like Ford and GM use cellular connectivity to reach out to your personal emergency contacts as well. This could be a life-saving development for someone who is knocked unconscious or becomes trapped during an accident.

emergency

That’s the status on mass comm + smart cars for now, but I’d recommend looking over this entire list about the latest in car tech – there’s a lot of promising safety and convenience developments in the works, too.

Big Brother is watching

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I’ve had quite a rough tech week, but after a series of unfortunate (and some would say, sitcom-worthy) events involving my catering job, a Frisbee, and a deceptively deep puddle, I am back and blogging!

As my old phone was sadly no longer operational (see: series of unfortunate events), I picked up my new one yesterday. Glancing over the back of the box for the features, I see this description:

“It sees, listens, knows, shares. Stays awake when you do. Responds to your words, keeps track of loved ones. Lets you re-live every moment.”

I see where you were going with that description, Samsung. You want me to feel like my phone is smart and has my back and will work how I need it to. I get it, but the phrasing also managed to come off as super creepy. I was very weirded out by the implication that my phone is doing these things whether or not I told it to do so (or furthermore, whether or not I even want it to).

I’m not really one of those people that is bothered by the idea that the government may be watching my communications. I don’t think we’re at “Big Brother” levels of monitoring, and I’m not trying to avoid all channels that could be watched like Ron Swanson.

ron drone

I have friends who tape little pieces of cardboard over their laptops’ built-in webcams “so no one can tap in and see through it” to look at them. I always thought this was silly (what would anyone see if they did hack into my webcam? Me and my bad posture slumped towards the screen for hours on end?). In theory the same logic could apply to my phone – but for some reason, I care a lot more about what my cell phone is doing without my permission. I guess it’s a problem for me because my phone is with me at most times – unlike my laptop – and contains a lot more personal information about me.

I’m sure I spent at least an hour going through my new phone and disabling some of these “Big Brother”-esk features I didn’t want to be a part of. GPS location tracking, off. Auto-upload photos to Facebook, off. Auto-sync contacts to and from social media, off. Do you want to give this website access to your location? No. Do you want to launch facial recognition software to remember and automatically tag your contacts? No.

samsung-galaxy-s-iii-neo-plus

And don’t even get me started on App permissions. You basically sign away any privacy rights you might think you’re entitled to when you download an app. For instance, in order for me to get my UNC email and calendar to sync to my phone, I had to give the application access to my location and all my contacts’ information, plus grant it the ability to turn my phone on/off, enable a factory reset on all settings, and use my email to send content, all without my knowledge or permission.

But because I’ve decided that’s something I absolutely have to have on my phone, what choice to I have but to agree to have my privacy violated? Just hit “accept” and hope for the best.

Shower thoughts

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A “shower thought” is the term for those crazy things you come up with when you let your mind wander while showering, driving, or doing any other mindless task. These thoughts may involve a philosophical reflection on life, the realization of unexpected coincidences, or a general epiphany about how the world works.

The great thing about shower thoughts is that the best ones can get other people thinking too. A recent Buzzfeed article gathered up some technology shower thoughts. They are all pretty interesting, but here’s a few that really made me go “whoa.”

“What if Artificial Intelligence built to defeat the Turing Test actually fails on purpose so we don’t know how smart it really is?”

whoa70sguygif

So this one is part crazy conspiracy, part epic futuristic robot dystopia movie, but in a mind-blowing kind of way that makes it something you just have to consider on a certain level. I find AI and the Turing Test fascinating. Can we create something as intelligent as we are? Something even more intelligent? How do we do that? And what would happen if we did? (Robot apocalypse, probably.) Oh, the things that keep us up at night.

“Finding an old USB drive with a file on it is modern technology’s equivalent to finding a message in a bottle.”

conspiracy keanu

Maybe it’s because I’ve always liked the idea of finding a message in a bottle, but this one is both intriguing and a little sad to me. I see the equivalent nature, but the fun part about a message in a bottle was that you were left reading someone else’s thoughts. (You wouldn’t leave yourself a message in a bottle.) So I guess this would be more applicable if you happened to come across an old USB drive of someone else’s. Then you can get that glimpse into another time while still being nosy!

“There are people alive today who have never seen a floppy disk, and yet it is still the universal ‘save’ icon.”

whoa

Ok, to be perfectly honest I think this one was just personally mind-boggling because I never understood the save icon image. I know what a floppy disk is and I never even made that connection. (I totally see it now, and I feel very silly.) You learn something new every day, I guess. On that note, can anyone tell me where the “power” symbol came from?

“Asking someone ‘Where are you?’ is a recent thing.”

Because before we had cell phones, the only way we could talk to people is if we already knew where they were.

what

I did a double take when I read this one. But it’s true. The primary person-to-person communication methods predating the cell phone were speaking face-to-face, sending telegrams, writing letters, and calling on landline phones. In all of those cases you have to already know where someone is in order to contact them at all, so you’d never have to ask where they are. This question only exists in our daily lives because of our communication’s relationship to technology.

Which leads me to my own shower thought for today: what questions will become a part of our daily lives in the future that we would never think to ask now?

The most amazing thing is it’s probably impossible to know.

And if you’re interested in hearing or sharing shower thoughts, I recommend r/ShowerThoughts.