You know how it is: you’re invited out next weekend but not quite sure what else is happening yet, so you click ‘maybe’ and think ‘I’ll re-assess closer to the time.’ That way, if I end up doing something else then I’m not actually letting someone down, because I never officially said I was going to come in the first place.
One decade ago it was very hard to say maybe. Most of us only had landlines, so unless you had a doctor’s appointment or were grounded and called the night before, being flaky meant leaving your friend waiting like a lemon outside Woolworths.
This culture of maybe is a millennial development; a dubious luxury afforded by our 21st Century social media landscape. Mobile technology has enabled us to greater personalise and commoditise our individual social experience.
I take my coffee with soya milk and an extra shot and I’ll get back to you about next weekend; see how I’m feeling on the night.
This kind of social self-gratification changes the type of social interaction we have, too.
I was recently asked whether I’d prefer that my friends be more interesting than kind, or more kind than interesting. Of course I went for kind, but reflecting on the conversation made me realise that in practice I often opt for interesting. Friendship where conversation becomes layers of anecdotes proving how fun and interesting we all are, staged in hipster venues. Conversational masturbation.
This culture comes from a place that says socialising is ultimately a selfish pursuit. In weighing up my options for the weekend I’m saying that the ultimate goal of spending time with people is my own satisfaction, and so I’ll tailor the experience to my preferences.
Doing hospitality and friendship according to my needs and conveniences is a far cry from the sacrificial and inconvenient love we are called to. And miles away from the honesty and integrity of ‘letting your yes be yes and your no be no’.
In real terms “being known as His disciples because we love one another” doesn’t mean that we have more Instagrammable social lives. It often means that on the surface our lives look less fun. It often means choosing the more boring option, the smaller and more difficult. It often means seeing the friends who need your company and missing out on things you really, really want to go to – read: pop-up, street food, jazz band – in favour of the thing you were invited to first.
It’s something I, for one, need to learn.