People Plan Socializing Differently

The tyranny of Google calendar for one-off events

I use Google calendar a lot, for better or worse. If you say “let’s get together next weekend”, I’ll say “ok, how about Saturday at 1pm at Place X?” or in the Age Of Zoom, “ok, Saturday at 1pm PT at (zoom link)?” And maybe I’ll invite you to this Google event too. (If I don’t, know that I’ve at least plotted it on a calendar in my mind. I don’t forget stuff! I’m organized, dammit.)

Not everyone does this! Some people prefer to just leave it up in the air until the weekend, and it feels wrong when I try to nail it down. (This may be obvious; it wasn’t to me.)

Both sides have benefits. The planner side is “responsible”; it is clear to my friend that I am setting aside this time for them, I won’t double book, and I’ll be pretty clear that I’ll see them. It’s also “efficient”; we don’t have much back and forth about when and where - or if we do, it’s sorted out before the weekend. But the non-planner side is “currently authentic”. If we wait until Saturday to figure out details, then you know that if I see you on Saturday, you can be sure that when I woke up Saturday morning I wanted to see you (/do activity x/etc).

It’s hard to plan for your future self! It’s hard to know what you’ll want to do in a week - and we pretend we can, and we plan, and the cost of that is sometimes you end up just totally out of line with what you actually want, because past-you thought that current-you would want it.

So I think I’ve learned something from all this: my friends who socialize in the second way are more “currently authentic” than “bad at scheduling”; their way has upsides too.

The tyranny of Google calendar for recurring events

I live in different places than many of my close friends, plus there’s been covid, so some of my “staying in touch” has been on the phone. Sometimes a schedule helps this: “phone call 1x/month”, say. Sometimes Google calendar helps solve the coordination problem: we set it up once, recurring, and now we don’t have to do the scheduling game every month.

But there’s a problem: it’s forever. So if you no longer want to talk monthly, the only choices you have are 1. “keep it up” or 2. “explicitly say I don’t want to talk to you now”. We should really do #2 more, and trust each other to receive it as an ok thing, not a reflection of anything bigger in the friendship.

(Sometimes people do #3: “ghost despite saying oh no I do want to talk to you when asked, until eventually you give up”. I think this is the worst because I will take your word for it and keep trying to call you as if you do want to talk. Not subtweeting anyone in particular; or, it’s ok, now I understand #3 is maybe the more appealing alternative to #1 or #2. Also not subtweeting my existing recurring calls; I’ll tell you if I want to stop.)

I wonder what we can do about the foreverness. The best solution I can think of is something like “default to non-recurring; if you want to make it recurring, make an endpoint, at which point you reevaluate.” In the limit this is, “each time decide if you want to reschedule another one.” But this still has the uncomfortable moments of “hey, let’s talk next month!” “no, let’s not.” Well, hmm.

Here’s another idea: make a daylong event that says “schedule a call with A and B this weekend” for both people, with a reminder. If you want to schedule it, do so! If your current self doesn’t want to, then silently let it pass. Maybe I’ll try this one.


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