It’s a never-ending cycle, feel isolated, make plans, get hyped about said plans, at the last minute cancel plans, and repeat. Thanks to an ever active Facebook dictated events cycle and a short attention span we’re a generation of flakes. A cereal aisle’s worth of flaky goodness. But what if the reason you ditch that dinner reservation or stay home instead of hitting the club is actually a form of anxiety? A likely excuse, but that’s not the full story. Sure some people do have social anxiety the ever stifling fear of having to be in an unfamiliar setting or have the gene linked to anxiety disorders; but new research suggests flakes get pleasure out of cancelling.
Yep, that unreliable friend who never turns up despite hyping up your get together for weeks, days – even hours before. Well, in actual fact they subconsciously find relief from backing out. “We should catch up!” no longer an real invitation but a pleasantry thrown into the wind, when you have no intention of moving from your couch or switching off your Netflix. Dr Andrea Bonoir says,
“We make plans in such a casual way that it’s easy to use technology to cancel on someone … If you were invited by text, you can cancel by text and not hear their disappointment.”
So off we go clicking interested or going without regard for the other person’s inevitable disappointment; using technology as a shield to mask our real feelings. It’s a kind of rebellious joy and immense relief when you feel like you’re in control of your diary dates and flaking allows you to regain that.
“You’re reasserting control, and that’s a sign that you got roped into the plans in the first place,” Dr. Bonior says. “It’s like, You made me say yes, but I wasn’t allowed to say no, so now I’m asserting control.”
These “yes” people aren’t laboured with cruel intentions and they likely don’t even know how unreliable and evasive they are with plans. Instead it’s a redistribution of their lack of control in other areas or feeling overburdened with too many social engagements that they resign to attending a total of none, zilch, zero, nada.
Contrary to popular belief social anxiety isn’t some Tumblr engineered experiment in pseudo science, some people really do find interactions others find day to day – totally debilitating. It’s the most common anxiety disorder and avoiding social situations it’s main manifestation. Dr Bonoir agrees noting there is a higher prevalence of social anxiety in today’s hyper connected society, where people fear living up to their online impression in real life.
“Some of it is social anxiety,” she says. “You have the best intentions, then the party approaches and you freak out and don’t want to go.”
So if you’re the flaky friend aka the empty seat at the group dinner or the myth amongst your pals, you’re not alone. But it’s still shitty behaviour and now science is onto you, it’s time to evaluate your answer at the time of invitation. Have some damn decency please. If you’re really a sufferer, science agrees that exposure therapy is the best remedy. Party people rejoice.
Image source: Lipstiq, Hello Giggles.