On August 28, 1963, 200,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King give his “I Have a Dream” speech. Two hundred thousand people from across the country arrived at the right place at the right time, back when the Internet and cellular networks were merely dreamed of. They couldn’t share the event with friends on Facebook, nor retweet the invitation, not even send SMSs. Yet all these people made it.
Because the means of communication of the past were so slow and unreliable they forced a certain degree of commitment. You had to inform everyone well in advance of events. You had to RSVP in a timely manner and once you did, you had better shown up as promised or else forget about the next invitation. All this has deteriorated with the advent of instant communication.
I can organize a dinner, invite people and ask for their confirmations. Even that is hard because many refuse to plan in advance. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing on that weekend.” Well, how about you decide then? Once I bought all the ingredients, spent 3 hours in the kitchen juggling tomatoes, frying pans and chicken fillets, half an hour before the event my cell phone beeps with a message “spouse doesn’t feel well, won’t come, sorry.” When 5 people send something similar before the same occasion you start wondering.
Because we have instant communication at our fingertips we feel that we can call off a prearranged commitment at any time. 50 years ago we wouldn’t have a way to notify the other party. Now we do, so we feel it’s OK, completely disregarding the cost of our actions.
I find such behavior to be rather rule than exception. At first, I was annoyed, then came to like it. Makes separating wheat from the chaff so much easier. Because reliable behavior stands out, shining brighter than ever.