Flakiness and Social Commitment

Flakiness also arises due to the widening range of options available to people. Higher incomes and more mobility allow people to pick among events to attend, and millennials usually choose the flashier one for fear of missing out (FOMO).

Woody Allen is reputed to have said that 80 percent of success is showing up. Increasingly, however, people are beginning not to show up, making all sorts of last-minute excuses to skip on something they have agreed to attend. Initially, undependability was limited largely among millennials, but now it seems to be spreading among a wider age group. In an earlier time, people showed stronger commitment to keep to their appointments, but such commitments seem to be loosening everywhere.

Young people call someone flaky if s/he is undependable. In the 1960s, a flaky person is an oddball, a person who is wacky and does offbeat acts or tricks, often funny. Today, it refers to someone who often cannot care less about his promises, an inconsiderate person.

Why is there an increasing incidence of flakiness? Obviously, our modern communications technology (cellphone, texting, social media, e-mail) makes it easier for everyone to break a promise to attend an event. Just find an excuse to skip and text it, and you’re off the hook. In an earlier time, it was nearly impossible to inform the inviting party early enough, making it inappropriate to skip.

Flakiness also arises due to the widening range of options available to people. Higher incomes and more mobility allow people to pick among events to attend, and millennials usually choose the flashier one for fear of missing out (FOMO). Social bonds are also weakening, making plans easier to break. Urbanization multiplies the networks one has, each network competing with others for our attention. Shaming used to be effective in making people keep to their promises but weakening social pressure (and the lame excuse of traffic) has made this ineffective. 

Increasing flakiness has insidious implications on our social and civic life. Obviously, social manners are increasingly being dispensed with, and we need to think of new ways of keeping our community bonds stronger. At a personal level, I think we should refrain from over-booking engagements, we should plan better, and if necessary, we should de-clutter our friends’ lists and stay longer with those we truly care about. 

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
Other Articles