Flaking on friends gives millennials a bad rap

In her March 18 op-ed piece published on mic.com, Katie Hakala argued that technology – specifically texting – has allowed young adults to become huge flakes, arriving late to events after sending a quick “be there soon!” text, and deciding last-minute not to show up at all.

She makes a good point. I think I would be hard pressed to find a current Ole who has never relied on a cell phone to flake out a little.

Can we push back dinner to 6:15?

Ugh. I just have so much work. Would it be okay if we do tomorrow instead?

I’m soooooooooo sorry, but I’m really tired and I think I’m just going to go to bed.

We’ve all done it. Some are worse offenders than others, but it happens all the time.I agree with Hakala that the increase in flakiness certainly has a significant negative impact on friendships. For instance, I have diminished trust in my friends who frequently flake. I don’t believe, however, that the flaking phenomenon arose from the convenience of texting. I think it’s actually selfishness, bred in the “you do you” world in which we twentysomethings grew up.

Millennials are not the iPhone-wielding mob of entitled narcissists that bloggers for the Huffington Post and the New York Times might have you believe. Most of my friends and peers have cares that reach far beyond the millennial sphere of hedonism in which they all supposedly operate. They want to invent drugs, teach children, fight social injustice and be elected to office. They want to change the world – not just earn money and go on vacation and watch TV.

We are not self-obsessed, but we are a little selfish. We’ve been taught – and wonderfully so – that we can do whatever we want to do and be whoever we want to be, and that we don’t have to answer to anybody but ourselves. That’s a great message, but it leaves out one important truth: we still have responsibility to one another.

Dear fellow millennials, college students, friends and peers: please stop being giant flakes and bad friends. Stop trading a friend’s trust for the instant gratification of staying home with a glass of wine. Stop arriving hours late because you had to watch just one more episode. The truth is that flakiness is not a quirky and inevitable characteristic of the millennial mind, but rather a social problem that needs active solving.

The good news: this is solvable. Here’s how.

Honor your commitments. Unless you are sick or facing an emergency, go to the party you said you would attend and show up at dinner at the time you suggested meeting.

Close Netflix. Your futon is so comfy, and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is so good, but that’s too bad. Arrive where you said you would when you said you would. Kimmy will still be there for you tomorrow.

Apologize sincerely when you do have to bail stomach flus and traffic jams do happen. Don’t offer excuses or make your friend reassure you that it’s totally fine.

Don’t try to justify flaking by being a “maybe” for every commitment thrown your way. If you’re always a maybe and you never show up, you are treating friends just as disrespectfully as those who RSVP with a “yes” and then bail last-minute.

Flaking, even if it’s “classic you,” is not funny or fine. It’s disrespectful, rude, thoughtless and hurtful. Stop it. If you’re “not a planner,” become one for just a few minutes each week so that you can show up when you said you would.

Independence and self-actualization are awesome. We can – and should – seize the opportunity to follow our own dreams and do what we want. But we should not do what we want all the time. That’s a lot of what’s wrong with this country and this world – the belief that people possess the ability to do anything they please without the responsibility to anybody else.

It’s time for millennials to cast off our bad reputations as entitled narcissists by demonstrating responsibility and treating our friends with respect – even when we don’t particularly feel like it.

Ashley Belisle ’15 belisle@stolaf.edu is from Mahtomedi, Minn. She majors in English and Spanish.

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