There was a story in the New York Times last week about text messaging and how we're all shrinking into "ill-mannered flakes," with regards to social commitments. I think anyone will find several truisms in the author's points, but for me, it especially touched a nerve, since I was still feeling a little raw from experiencing it in full just a few weekends ago. I was having a daytime party in my building's garden as a farewell to summer (and lucky enough, the weather was gorgeous), but in the hours leading up to showtime, one by one, friends began to bail. My phone was off the hook with texts coming in—and not in a good way. I should also add here that most of the people I invited didn't RSVP, so I didn't even know that some of them were even planning on coming until they suddenly weren't coming. I tried to be good natured about it with each one who canceled, assuming every excuse was in fact legit. But something about it all being conveyed in such an impersonal way really rankled me.
Sending last-minute regrets via text happens all the time—and we all do it—but when it happens to you (and several times at once) it's hard not to feel dismissed.
True, it's fast and easy. But so is a phone call. And when you're canceling at such a late hour, having an actual conversation with your friend or host is one surefire way to guarantee they really got the message. But it's harder to bail when you actually have to say out loud why you're not coming, whether it's the truth or not. More than just a fast dispatch, texting sets up a tree to hide behind. The rub, of course, is that the easier it is to cancel, the greater the likelihood of flakiness. And we seem to be spiraling into that territory.
Obviously the same set of manners that existed even ten years ago don't necessarily apply to these fast-changing modern times, but we need something in the form of collectively-regarded codes. Everyone has their individual standards and settings, so to speak (you eventually learn which friend will go bananas if you cancel and the last-minute, and which is fine being totally loosey-goosey), but an Emily Post for the new millennium wouldn't be unappreciated.
So how did the party turn out? Well, between the friends who didn't bother to RSVP and the ones that canceled, I ended up calling it off—by sending a text (doh!!!).