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.

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Sling ‘Slingshot’ back where it came from

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So I’m casually browsing my Facebook feed today when I see an ad for Slingshot, a new social media app. The first line of the post promises an experience that is comparable to “Snapchat, with a twist!” I don’t particularly care for Snapchat myself (that’s a post for another time) but I do recognize that it is pretty popular with other people. The popularity of Snapchat and my curiosity as to what kind of “twist” you can put on sending pictures encouraged me to read on…and the next line is where I lost it.

“Your friends can’t see what you sent until they send something back!”

slingshot

I had to read that a couple of times because I was sure I had to be misunderstanding something somehow. “Your friends can’t see what you sent until they send something back.” Excuse me?

Here’s how I picture this Slingshot thing going down:

Person A: *slings a photo he wants to share*

Person B: *gets notification that she has a photo*

Person B: *can’t view photo*

Person B: *slings back random photo of nearest object so she can open the photo sent to her*

Person A: *receives response photo of random object but can’t open it*

Person A: *slings back a photo of his own random object so he can view the reaction photo of her random object*

Person B: *finally opens first photo*

Person B: *gets notification of another photo – the random object reaction sent to view the random object reaction sent to view the original photo*

I can’t even complete a full cycle of this. The tedium of writing that out is too much; I can’t imagine living it. In what world would it be useful to send a response to something you haven’t seen yet? And similarly, in what world would it be useful to receive a response that has nothing to do with what you sent? You didn’t ask for it, it’s not relevant to the message you were trying to convey…Slingshot is basically just opting to receive junk mail from your friends.

After researching Slingshot, I discovered it is a Facebook creation. I can see the business appeal of the app. If Facebook can get people to buy into this Slingshot nonsense, you can see how it would be easy to make money. The whole “response before you know what you are even responding to” deal means if one person slings one picture, it starts a cycle of slinging back and forth before the intended “conversation” can be completed (as I demonstrated above); the nature of the Slingshot app fosters increased usage. Assuming the audience doesn’t lose its patience, that is.

With the rise of the digital age, there have been countless arguments that social media culture hinders social skills, damages interpersonal communication, and is making us generally less intelligent. I have never personally bought into these types of arguments much, but if Slingshot represents the future of digital communication, they might actually be right. I definitely see this weird Slingshot method as breaking down traditional communication – and not in a good way. You won’t catch me slinging photos anytime soon.