I was having a conversation with a friend the other night about how our parents generation seem to be busier and spend much more time with their groups of friends than us. Our parents are so good at staying in touch with people; calling people for a chat, keeping up to date with everyone both near and far, and making plans that they actually intend to keep.
This isn’t because they are parents and therefore they are grown ups and must do these things. This is because they were brought up this way. Before the internet and all that comes with it, before everyone had a mobile phone they were physically attached to, if you made plans with someone, on the phone, in an actual conversation, you just couldn’t cancel on them last minute – they wouldn’t have any way of knowing you weren’t coming!
I would say in the past few months only 25% of the plans I’ve made with friends have actually happened. And of that 25% I would say 2/3rds were late.
I have a thing about being late for things – it makes me panic. So I am always anywhere at least 15 minutes early, and I allow for travel problems in that so I’m often closer to 40 mins early for anything! When a friend texts 10 minutes after we were meant to meet saying they are running late and they will be there in 10 (which inevitably turns into 25-30 mins) I try my hardest to grit my teeth and get over it. After all, not everyone has to be stupidly early for things like me. What irritates me, more than them being late (things happen, traffic, tube issues etc) is that if they had no way of contacting me, I guarantee they would have left earlier and wouldn’t be late in the first place – if I can get there stupidly early for fear of being late, they could get there on time.
Worse though than being late, is cancelling on someone last minute. The immediacy of smart phones, twitter, whatsapp etc means that people think it’s ok to cancel on people at short notice, because they know they will be able to get hold of them even 15 minutes before to cancel, and they do.
For our parents generation, this is considered the height of rudeness and they would do anything to avoid the situation.
For our generation, it is rapidly becoming the norm.
Technology is allowing us to be flakey, cancel on people without even speaking a single word to them or hearing their reaction, allowing us to be late, because for some reason it is now ok to leave friends waiting in coffee shops and restaurants looking like they’ve been stood up as people look at her with pity in their eyes as they tell the waiter “I’m waiting for my friend, sorry!”
I’m not writing this whilst waiting for someone, ironically, but a lot of my writing does get done, or at least planned out whilst waiting for annoyingly flakey friends, or, in some cases, after a friend has actually cancelled and I’ve decided not to leave the cafe or restaurant, treated myself to a brownie and opened my laptop.
Imagine, just for a minute, a world where you can’t reach the person you are about to meet to tell them you are running late. Imagine a place where you can’t text and cancel half an hour before – you have to be there. There is no excuse. You would find a way, somehow, to be there. Surely that would make you a better friend?
For me, I am grateful for so much that we have gained from the growth of technology and I wouldn’t last a day in London without my iPhone plugged into googlemaps (I would get SERIOUSLY lost!) but there is a side to technology that isn’t having such a positive effect on our society. Technology is making us flakey.
I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t, in the past, also cancelled on people or been late – Things do sometimes happen that are completely unavoidable, but when it happens more than a few times, and without good reason, it’s not an emergency…it is flakiness!
I try my hardest not to cancel on people, ever – I hate letting people down, and generally, if I’ve planned to meet someone, it’s probably because I actually want to see them!
I guess that is why it bothers me. I’m starting to feel like a person who is always stupidly early, who, because of technology is developing some rapidly flakey friends….