I had three events the same night last week. Each one of them was important in their own way, and I had to either buy tickets or not go. I thought I could swing all three, which was incredibly unrealistic. For some reason, my judgment flew out the window as I contemplated how I was going to make all of them. Start early at one, leave to go to the second and then catch the tail end of the third. I convinced myself it was completely possible. Come the night of, I only made it to one. The worst part was that I had to buy tickets to all three, so I inherently lost money by overshooting. I also probably appeared as if I flaked out on two of those events, because I said I would be there and never made it.
It got me thinking about the availability of events through technology like Facebook and Eventbrite, making me feel bad I didn’t make it even though I publicly said “yes” or bought those damn tickets. Inherently unavoidably, all of us here in S.F. are flakes. For whatever reasons (which I will explore later), we miss out because we think we can do it all. By party hopping and never staying in one place, we further optimize our lives to make the most out of every minute.
Why do we do this to other people? I don’t think people purposely flake out unless they really don’t like you, yet are just nice to your face. That aside, we subscribe to all of these events because we don’t want to miss out. FOMO can take over when we click “yes” to everything on our Facebook calendar. When we click to get tickets to that lecture, meetup or happy hour, we know deep down we don’t have time to attend. We are afraid there are cool things happening we might miss and oversubscribe. Having run events for a while, I always assume only ⅓ of the people who RSVP’d “yes” actually show up.
Imagine if we didn’t have cellphones, and had paper invitations to events. Yes people, this actually used to happen! If you already sent your RSVP in, you probably wouldn’t flake out. If you opted for other plans, you would be more than a flake, you would be completely standing them up for a better option. There is no texting to tell the person you “have a cold” (when you are just watching Netflix). You just don’t show up. That is why it means so much to people when you do show up. It implies they are important enough for you to spend your time.
Along with our current ability to lean on technology to send those last minute cancellations, there are real, extenuating circumstances that can arise. That girl you said you would hang out with last week has been completely ignored/not tended to because you have been working 60 hour work weeks. You could get sick. You may have a crisis (but would never actually admit that). Most of the time though, you just don’t want to go. This perpetuates the flakey, admittedly California behavior that San Francisco is used to. This kind of stuff would probably not happen in the Midwest. It just isn’t acceptable. It isn’t brushed off like it is here, because it is abnormal to do it.
But that is where technology can hurt you even more; when you get caught. It’s never a good idea to go on Facebook or get tagged or play up your Snapchat or Instagram stories. If you are playing hookie, you don’t want the host to figure it out. So if you are snapchatting from 1015 Folsom when your friend’s birthday is going on at Press Club, you’re a jerk. It illustrates why a lot of people suck. Besides the justifiable reasons for not attending an event, going out on a date or catching a movie isn’t really an excuse. You are just a flake. As you try to optimize your time, you are wasting ours.
But not all flakes are bad people. I don’t flake because I feel good about it, but because I can be self-centered. Sometimes I need time to myself and should have said no. Sometimes I overpromise because I want to convey my support and how much I actually like the people that invite me into their life. Whether we show up or not is up to us.
We should focus on those things that are truly important to us, because if we spread ourselves too thin and flake, we get less or nothing accomplished.
With a background in journalism, Melissa Eisenberg has been working in the tech industry for eight years, currently leading the SF FashTech community.