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…