The Urban Dictionary tells us that flaking (v.) means to bail out of something at the last-minute whilst a flake (n.) is an unreliable person; someone who agrees to do something, but never follows through. Now, I wasn’t around in olden days but I’ve got a hunch that flaking as an activity is on the rise and the number of flakes in society is increasing. This is partly due to the arbitrary increase in population size (so the number of flakes may well grow proportionately with that) but also because consumer culture encourages flaking whilst modern technology makes it far easier. So here’s a quick blog on the rise of flaking and why I certainly don’t want a flake with that.
To be happy in consumer society you’ve always got to buy the next big thing, keep on trend and own more stuff. There’s never any chance just to slow down and enjoy what you’ve got because if everyone slowed down then the economy would stop growing. This attitude of cost-benefit analysis and accumulation easily percolates into our social lives as we weigh up which event will most likely maximise our happiness. There’s so much to do so rather than commit to one thing we hold out on the off-chance something better comes up. This means we flake a lot. And it’s even easier to flake now we’ve got smartphones – all we need is a weak wifi signal to let our friend now that we’ve decided not to see them because something else has come up or, y’know, we just couldn’t be bothered. Back in the days of telephones-we-couldn’t-put-in-our-pockets flaking on an event was probably a bigger deal because more effort had to be put into arranging to meet in a certain place at a certain time, but now it just takes the silent clicks of a few touchscreen buttons.
Now, I get that in this world of shrinking economics, laptops and internet that everyone is very busy. We’re all so busy getting caught up in a flailing capitalist consumer economy but why should friendships have to suffer for that? Why pretend to commit to something that you probably won’t turn up to, why not just be honest? Of course, honesty is difficult and we fear upsetting people by telling them we’re not too fussed about hanging out with them which is why we try to smooth the situation with some half-hearted apology – “Oh I’m so sorry I didn’t make it, I’ve just been so busy and blah blah blah.”
Sometimes the apology is worse than the actual act of flaking itself because what it seems to say is this: hey, so I’m aware I flaked on you and I feel bad about it so can you stop me feeling bad by accepting this quasi-apology. But what about the person who has been flaked on, aren’t they thinking something like this: hey, so I’m actually somewhat upset that you flaked on me, it kinda suggests you didn’t give me much of a second thought, but now you want me to make you feel better by accepting your apology…well, I can’t fricking have coffee with your apology.
I think the simplest way to get around this increasing social problem is to create two different types of social event – the ‘event-event’ and the ‘flake-event’ – the former is one to which both (or all) parties are committed and will make as much of an effort as possible to attend (save ill-health, unforeseen grave circumstances etc) whilst the second is one that neither party will get too excited about because one or both may well decide to do something else or just decide to do nothing. The ‘event-event’ and ‘flake-event’ categories at least acknowledge that flaking is a common activity and helps us to cope with it better, rather than the endless half-apologies. Of course, we could just try to make more of an effort. Here’s comedian Aziz Ansari summing up flaking very nicely…
I too feel passionately about this, although I have admittedly been a bit of a flake myself and you’re making me realize that. I particularly find it difficult in the social justice/community work sphere, because you have to be eternally grateful even if someone just says they’ll turn up and then they don’t because they are volunteering, even though for me and others this stuff is really important, and it’s difficult to call people up on things that they’ve ‘just’ volunteered for, because it’s more acceptable to be flaky in those situations.
I wonder if it is just a product of consumerism though……when I lived in Mexico it was just a commonly accepted cultural thing that you didn’t take people’s word literally. If they said they were coming to a party it meant they might come and if they said they might come it meant they wouldn’t come. I think not committing to things is related to fear of commitment, which is age-old.
However, it does seem to have become way more acute recently, which I have put down to society’s increasing aversion to ‘negative’ emotion- if you commit to something you have to suffer as well as gain and you sometimes have to say ‘no’. For example, in a relationship, if you commit to someone you have to sometimes put up with their flaws, smell their farts etc but you gain more than just having lots of meaningless sex.
Having said that, this may also be related to consumerism, in that we can now buy quick ‘fixes’ for our problems, rather than creatively engaging with them which means that we don’t have to actually deal with the negative, we can seemingly avoid it by just buying a lot of stuff.
I just had a nice little debate with myself. A bit like a philosophy essay. In conclusion, Robert Holtom is right.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Hayley, this is an ace response. I think your point about fear of commitment is spot on – maybe we’re just scared! And yes, I think that because relationships are becoming ‘easier’ in certain ways – i.e. more accessible (be it dates via Tinder or just lots of facebook events) – it can mean we don’t give as much time to people, which I think is how relationships, of any sort, really grow. As for smelly farts, yes, that is something we sometimes have to put up with. But I think you’re right to say we need to move beyond the relentlessly ‘maximising’ culture – i.e. if it’s not perfect then let’s drop it and get something else. This might apply to household products but it really cannot be applied to people. Haha, Hayley Spann is right too!