“Hey, do you want to get together next week?”
“Sounds good. Let’s connect in a few days to figure it out.”
…a few days later…
“So, will Wednesday work?”
“Probably. Let me check on some things.”
…a few days later…
“Are we on for tomorrow?”
“I think so.”
…the next day…
“Meet at noon?”
“Sorry, something came up.”
A real doozy, this scenario.
What’s described here is becoming, I observe, more and more commonplace.
Our culture is making it increasingly difficult to actually firm up appointments. The reason? We’re always waiting, waiting, waiting for something better to come along.
I’ll say up front, I’m guilty. The idea of confirming an event much in advance is a little daunting. After all, what if a cooler party comes up? What if the girl of my dreams is free then? What if I wake up that day and just don’t feel like it?
It’s not that we don’t want to make appointments (well, sometimes it is); it’s that we don’t want to schedule one appointment that excludes us from what might be an even better appointment. All of our hangouts and dates and events are, in a sense, replaceable.
It has probably always been true that people were willing to ditch one appointment for another when something more important came up (and usually there is nothing wrong with that), but I wonder if today, the prospect that, in fact, something more important really will come up, is evermore prominent.
The exact culprit here isn’t clear to me. There’s definitely The Fear of Missing Out (TFMO). We are scared that resigning ourselves to any one plan will prove fatal for all other possible superior plans.
There may also be a smidgen of that mid-20s noncommittal-ness. Ironically, in an age of constant digital consent forms, we are in some ways growing more skeptical about dotted lines and more reluctant to sign on them.
Social media probably has something to do with it too – the way we’re always aware of a great many happenings in and around our sphere of being, and how new events are popping into the ether all the time. No one has invited me to a party next Friday, but I had better be available in case they do.
I am wondering now if there’s a generational component to it. As life’s big anchors – marriage, long-term careers, children – are postponed for ever-mounting years, we retain our independent, free-spirit ways. Maybe married folks and “rooted” people are better at keeping appointments because they have better learned the ways of commitment and dependency. Frankly, it could also be because their worlds are more fenced-in, and so the possibility of something better coming along is less, or just not as important.
I have talked more than once about my dislike for Facebook’s “Maybe” option for RSVPs. “Maybe”, it seems, nearly always means “No”. But the “Maybes” are only going up. I fear we are becoming a people of “Maybes”, dispassionate or disinclined or unable to grant that which we fear is all-restricting: Confirmation.
If we confirm a plan, if we set a date in stone, it becomes that much more difficult to go back.
But, I wonder, maybe that is a good thing.
I will tell you, if the president or the girl I really like asks me to dinner, I’m bailing on all my other appointments, but short of that, I don’t want to be noncommittal or backing up on people.
It would be better if we kept moving forward, if we met our obligations, if we kept our appointments, if we gave our word and kept it. And, really, that is not so hard to do. Our own hopes and fears are usually the only things stopping us.