Stay Committed: Why It's Time To Stop Ditching Your Friends

by Terran Tout

I got the Facebook invitation a few days before the event: “Come celebrate my engagement!” I didn’t think twice before clicking the “Accept” button and boom! Just like that, I had made Friday plans. It was that easy.

But now, it’s 8:30 pm on the big night, and I’m cuddling with a vat of popcorn in my too-comfortable sweatpants, fully secured within a mass of soft blankets and fluffy pillows. I feel nothing but dread at the thought of abandoning my couch-nest for an otherwise unpredictable evening.

The excuses accumulate quickly. Suddenly, I’m the most tired I’ve ever been, my back aches and I just started the new season of "Parks And Recreation" on Netflix. No thoughts are more revolting than putting on real pants or brushing my hair (God forbid).

I send a quick text: “Came down with a stomach bug. Sorry, I have to bail. Congrats on the engagement!” I’m a bit ashamed, but those feelings hardly compare to the great relief of reclaiming my night alone.

In this tech-obsessed age, it’s ironic that the same tools that facilitate effortless planning — texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. — also make it absurdly easy to cancel said plans. Technology has perpetuated the cancellation rate, but the root of the issue lies solely within us.

The immediate satisfaction we feel from doing something now overpowers any rewards the future may hold. It’s the same reason we break diets to enjoy whole bags of Doritos and why we watch ANOTHER episode on Netflix, despite the less-than-appealing amount of homework that isn't decreasing on its own.

If it feels good in this moment, why not indulge?

Technology only makes it easier to cave in to these desires. Ditching a friend via text is much easier than suffering through an uncomfortable phone conversation.

The digital age has helped remove the negative effects of canceling plans; we no longer have to experience the emotional ramifications (e.g. disappointment, frustration) that typically occur. Without these direct consequences, it becomes increasingly easier to bail, which is why bailing has become the bad habit of the masses.

Breaking plans with a friend a few times probably isn’t enough to completely ax the relationship. It is, however, very easy for this inclination to become a habit — and no one likes a chronic canceler. If your friends can’t count on you to be physically present, eventually, they won’t count on you emotionally, either.

Consistently flaking makes you less reliable. If you can’t be trusted to keep a dinner date, how can friends feel confident enough to share details of their lives with you?

Furthermore, copping out shows that you care more about [insert not-so-important activity here] rather than your friendship. You’re expressing your priorities, and your friends will quickly catch on. They will stop depending on you to be there in any way, meaning they probably won’t be there for you, either.

Before you commit to a plan, take a look at you schedule for that particular day. Do you usually work extra-long shifts on Fridays? Have you already made lunch plans with another friend?

Flaking is a common symptom of overbooking and subsequent social exhaustion. This sensation allows chronic cancelers to feel justified about their choices, so it's easier to forgive the choice. Be more realistic with your schedule and think ahead before committing.

Another possible explanation for bailing is fairly simple: You cancel because, when it comes down to it, you don’t really want to do the activity you signed up for.

Yeah, it’s awkward to say no to your friends when they invite you to do something. But just because your friend likes to watch roller derby competitions does not mean you have to join.

Your friends may not appreciate the rejection in that moment, but it’s better than the frustration they’ll feel when you skip out after you’ve already agreed to something. If you can’t bring yourself to just say no, you can also try deferring agreement until you muster the courage to refuse.

Say “Let me see what I have going on that day,” and soon after, politely decline. This way, you can avoid the struggle of saying no flat-out, without annoying anyone with your last-second change of heart.

Remember, commitment is just a matter of self-discipline. Ignore those comfy sweatpants (although I’m sure they’re calling your name). Don’t worry; "Parks and Rec" will be waiting for you when you get back.

Stepping out the door is the hardest part. Once you’re having a good time, you’ll likely forget all about your couch-nest and simply enjoy being with your friends. Remember, you can always leave if things become too unbearable.

No matter your excuse, bailing on your friends after establishing plans is just not cool. It’s inconsiderate to their time and gives the illusion that you have better things to do. But, do you really?

Certainly, there are times when canceling is appropriate, like when you genuinely don’t feel well or you are unexpectedly called in to work. Save the rain checks for those times, not for the occasions when you simply don’t feel like following through.

Your actions say a lot about who you are. Next time you feel the need to bail, take a moment to consider what you’re really giving up.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It