I have a confession to make. One of my best friends got married this past weekend and I tried to RSVP ‘maybe’ to the wedding. Ok, not literally but practically. I put off sending the RSVP card back because checking the little NO box seemed so final and cruel. Of course I wanted to be there – this girl is one of my best friends in the whole world, and we’ve been through a lot together over the years – but with the new job and being hundreds and hundreds of miles apart it just was not possible. But sending a no was too much to handle. And to be honest I didn’t even know it was poor form to not send the response card back.
Yes, I am a product of the ‘maybe culture.’
Thanks to Facebook, Evite and other such online invitation services we no longer need to check yes or no. We don’t have to give our word that we will be at an event. We can simply click ‘maybe’ and go on our merry way. If we show up it’s cool, if we don’t make an appearance that’s cool too. No pressure, no commitment, no guilt, and no hurt feelings – well then again, maybe not.
A maybe might be the easy way out for the attendees but for the host a maybe might as well be a ‘headache’ button. For example, here in Boston a friend of mine is planning a fashion event for this week. The goal is to have 100 people show up. So far she hasn’t even sold 50 tickets, although dozens of people have said they are planning on coming. Does she order refreshments for 50 or 100? That’s a pretty significant gap. Buy for 50 and more show she’ll look bad. Buy for 100 and less show she’ll be stuck with tons of extras and will be passing out to-go bags.
This ‘maybe culture’ has been in the making for years, even before Facebook created the official option. For the millennials, and those younger than us, it is hard to commit to something when there is the possibility that something more exciting or more fun might be waiting in the wings. Obligations and commitments become optional choices.
In order to combat this there needs to be a re-awakening of our sense of the others. If the soccer player realized her absence from the game would mean the coach’s plans were shot and she was letting down the other 10 players wouldn’t she re-think picking the party instead? If I had thought of my friend’s mother trying to figure out the seating arrangements for the wedding reception and sitting there with a big question mark next to my name I would have sent my ‘sorry, no’ much sooner.