About commitment and accountability

by Dries De Roeck on October 23, 2017

After talking to several people in different industries and after being involved in the organisation of a couple of events in the past year, I figured it was time to jot down some thoughts on what I’ve been noticing in social circles around me with regard to taking up responsibility and commitment.

I think one of the first messages in the social media bubble that got me thinking consciously about this was by Lucy Morris:

In recent months I was involved in setting up a chibelgium.be event and I had the ambition of hosting a thingscon event tomorrow (which I cancelled today…). It was the organisation of these events which taught me a lot about how social ‘standards’ seem to change. With this ranty bit of text, I have the intention to stand up and ‘do my part’.

The poison called “I’m interested”

Call it whatever you want, FOMO, keeping options open, … it seems to be the social default to not commit to anything. What happened to genuine interest? What’s up with the extreme cases of ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude?

It disgusts me to see so-called “successful” meetup events ending up having over 50% of no-shows because people do not treat the RSVP button with respect. I can get evenly agitated by ‘if need be’ meeting polls, they seem to be nice at first – but to me they’re often just ways of brining a “negative” message wrapped in a wrapper of vagueness.

The odd thing is that I often catch myself posing the same kind of behaviour. Our online presences are making it so easy to hide behind ‘read receipts’, ‘I’m interested, keep me informed’ buttons. I try to be very cautious about communicating clearly if I can be at an event, a meeting or whether I’m willing to contribute and what the content of that contribution will be. But it requires conscious attention.

“Not being accountable”

In a WNYC interview with Esther Perel, the roots of the issue I’m trying to touch upon are being talked about in a crystal clear way. Our current ways of communication are making it easy to put on our capes of invisibility, and phase in and out of social interaction when it seems fit, whenever our own personal interests or needs are high enough to interact with others.

When organising something, you openly take up accountability for doing something. What I notice is that the act of doing that is heavily under respected. Our social default is to nag at how everything could have been better or different, but when asked to suggest or commit to improving something … the capes of vagueness get shrouded quickly.

As a sidenote, it should also be mentioned that our online social circles are bound to make interactions very complex too. I do find myself juggling with thoughts such as:

  • “yes that looks super interesting, but I just can’t be away from my family more than one, max two evenings a week” aka ‘real life’ versus ‘online life’
  • “I would really like to participate in this event, but doing so I’ll probably be pushing back work on projects that pay my bills” aka redefining how we should approach growth

Whatever the situation, however, getting a “full yes” or a “clear no” is worth so much more than a vague … maybe / I’m not sure.

It’s not just about events

What I hear from others, and what I experience in my own professional work is that engaging in conscious social interaction – taking into account something that goes beyond the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude seems to be the exception to the rule. (Louisa has some excellent thoughts on ‘growth’ by the way)

I hope that we can somehow start to turn this around, and all together escape from the shallow version of social interaction through likes, retweets and double blue tick marks. At least, I will keep reminding myself to refrain from doing that.



One comment

I like and agree with this! Thank you for sharing!

by Katya Krasner on November 6, 2017 at 10:46 am. #

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