Culture-wide phenomenon: People are just not dependable any more

Note that I am saying this is culture-wide (could be global, but at least here in the US). I don’t see it as generational: people of all ages just can’t be assed to do what they say they’re going to do–or even do what they say they are in business to do! Frankly, I find it a major downer that dampens my enthusiasm for life.

I don’t know if national decline, spiritual malaise, people feeling collectively beaten up after 16 years of war and economic upheaval, but I have had soooo many friends go through just plain old depression, which is often the excuse for not being assed to, well, read above.

Corollary to the above: I feel I have to be the adult in the room with every-fuckin’-body I know. Nothing gets done without a lot of hand-holding.


• Cowrote a book with a friend. We did a nice job. He is the main author, it’s his ideas, his baby, but I was the driving force behind getting it all done. We self-pubbed it. He never ran with it–went through a period of depression. The book has never sold very well.

• The illustrator of the above book. Brilliant artist. Agreed to do work for my websites. Got part of it done, disappeared. Wouldn’t communicate. Owed me $500 in work. Depression. After a couple years finally communicated. Would refund the money. Has disappeared again. Won’t communicate.

• Handyman did a bunch of work on our house, used to be a regular helper. Now won’t respond to texts, phone calls, etc. He may be busy with other stuff, but c’mon!

• In business, of course, promises are as good as toilet paper that is promptly flushed. Some folks at this company are impressed with my interpreting skills, talk to me about working more. I offer to write a company overview that could be translated into Japanese and be put up on their website, used as a flyer, etc. Never hear back from them. That may still work out, and they’re actually busy and not depressed, but c’mon!

• Was dating someone until early 2014. The relationship was conflicted but was actually on the improve, and I wanted to continue. She has to go off her depression meds to do a sleep study, she crashes and burns in a big depressive episode, and ends the relationship. To my knowledge, she hasn’t dated anyone since (i.e., it was less me and more the depression, in my view).

There’s no doubt that a lot of this is “same as it ever was,” but I’m 44 and it seems to me that this phenomenon has gotten worse in my 20+ years of adulthood. It could be that, in addition to the overall malaise, people are now so inundated with communications via cell phone, email, Facebook, etc., that their quick and dirty safety valve is just to blow people off. Not sure.

Anyhow, thanks in advance for your thoughts!

I suspect it’s more likely that your expectations are different now that you’re older. I’m older than you and don’t believe this is an actual phenomenon. Some people are unreliable, stop associating with them. Or at least stop depending on them.

Sounds to me like you’ve self-selected a group of depressed people. Don’t do that and you won’t have that problem. I don’t interact with depressed people and don’t see the problems you describe.

Yes, you always need to be the adult in the room. So does everyone else. The fact that you need to be the adult has nothing to do with the fact that they need to be the adult, too.

I will say that since we moved to our current location, seven years ago, we’ve found it nearly impossible to get someone to do any sort of job. Plumbing, electrical, yard work, roofing, even educators - in all of these situations (except the last), we’re desperately trying to find someone who wants to come DO THEIR JOB IN EXCHANGE FOR OUR MONEY, and it’s well-night impossible. We call and no one answers. We leave messages and they never return the calls. After calling ten or so places, we might eventually find one guy willing to commit to coming out to look at it. 90% of THOSE guys never show up and we never hear from them again. And then we hear complaints about how hard it is to survive as a small business owner in this area. It’s insane.

But when no one else is, the greater burden falls on you, and that’s reallly tiring.

That’s true to an extent. I knew the girlfriend had depression and I went out with her anyway. Why? Because she was super smart in a way that’s hard to find. I paid the price.

But I have seen lots of good, stable friends go through depression. My coauthor is one of several. He’s very successful in business overall.

Frankly, it sounds largely like a self-inflicted problem. I’ve had issues with friends and associates being undependable in the past, and the simple answer was to reevaluate who my friends and associates were, either altering my expectations, reducing my contact, or meeting new people. The worse part is, it can be a self-reinforcing cycle, where my friends are undependable, so I feel less obligation to be dependable to them, and it just spirals into a mess. The best fix, really, was to increase my expectations on myself, and meeting some new people. I still have some people I can’t depend on, mostly family, but I’m aware of that and I generally don’t. But ultimately, I feel like the people around me are far more dependable now than they had been even just a year ago. Hell, many of them are even the same people, but the nature of our relationship has changed so that we are mutually more dependable to each other.

I hear you. Another one is my web guy. Just sorta lost interest in that aspect of his business, is putzing around with other stuff, and you have to drive him now to get anything done.

I’ve had the same issue with more than one graphic designer, etc. People don’t actually seem interested in their jobs or, you know, making money.

What you just said is “I am willing to be a support system for depressed people.” They can smell that attitude and will rush towards you like zombies toward brains.

You did this to yourself. As **Blaster Master **says so eloquently just above, you can undo it too. You get to choose. But you do *have *to choose. Clearly your current default behavior is to attract depressed folks.

It is to the extent I don’t follow the kind of advice you give, but I generally do. I am pretty picky about friends. The thing is, good friends sometimes fall off the dependability wagon along the way. I may not be associating with the now, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be worn out from having to either alter the relationships or lose them.

Another relevant example. I had this huge group of friends led by a woman I met on a dating site (we never dated, but we really hit it off as friends). Well, she found a boyfriend and now focuses her attention on him. Reasonable enough. But there was also infighting in that group, in which I thankfully was not involved, but it basically blew it all to shit.

So, no more group of friends and fun activities. I have not mismanaged the situation in any way, but it’s another bummer in dealing with people… or not dealing with them.

In the case of the girlfriend, yes, I did. Otherwise, no.

I’ve noticed a bunch of non-depressed people are like this too, actually. For example, with my husband’s family, you can ask if they want to go hiking in an hour, get an enthusiastic response, and then when it’s time to go they are suddenly completely uninterested. I’m not sure if they fake the enthusiasm or if they really do change their mind that quickly. If it’s the former, please people out there, stop saying you’ll do stuff when you aren’t interested, it’s boorish.

I have essentially stopped waiting around for or expecting anybody to get their shit together. If I say I’m going somewhere at 2, I’m going regardless of whether anyone else who said they’d come shows up or not. I’ve basically given up on expecting anybody to be reliable and instead get to be pleasantly surprised when someone actually does what they say they’ll do.

If we’re including punctuality under the dependable umbrella, I’d say cell phones have definitely had an impact on the way people prioritize being where they say they will on time. I find that knowing they can call you from the road if they’re running late has led to people making less of an effort. Unfortunately , they aren’t likely to have my cell number so I’ll be kept waiting. Fortunately, I’ll see that they’re the kind of person that doesn’t value other peoples’ time and I can avoid making plans with them in the future.

The most recent phenomenon was putting together a book of recipes for my brother-in-law when he graduates. Wouldn’t it be great to have the whole family write down their best recipes to give to him! I’ll start two years in advance - you know, just to be sure. Good idea, everyone says! Let’s do it!

The book went to the first aunt and uncle and sat there. And sat there. And sat there. We email. We remind at the next party. We call. We email. We remind at the next party. We email. We remind. We remind. We remind. (Halfway through it’s just a reminder that we would like it back). One year after brother graduates (so three years after we start this idea) we finally get the book back (and mind you, it was supposed to be passed around all of the immediate family but we’d just given up and wanted it back) and there was one recipe written in it. I filled in 50 of my recipes and gave it to him. Don’t even bother with anyone else.

Completely hopeless. I expect nothing from people anymore.

I run a sales group on Facebook, which is a fairly popular thing on there. You post stuff for sale, people claim it, you contact each other about picking up and paying, end of the story. It’s like Craigslist without the anonymity.

People seem to think that it’s ok to claim something, contact the seller and arrange for pickup, then never show up. Maybe they give an excuse or two about why they can’t come but eventually the people just stop responding to messages.

No “sorry, I can’t make it to pick up I’ll just have to pass” or “turns out I didn’t want it anyway” messages. Just no response. And they see the messages (Facebook tells you when messages are read) and they continue to claim other stuff on the group. They just flat out ignore the people they’ve made a deal with.

The group is mostly mothers of young children but I am not about to say that it’s a problem limited to that group, or that being in that group is an excuse.

I cannot think of one good reason why stopping all contact is the route they choose to go. But it’s perfectly normal for them. I’ve got a whole page full of people who are now banned from our group because they decided to treat others like this.

“Ghosting” is what it’s called in relationships, by the way. When your SO just stops all contact. Can apply in any situation I’m sure.

I’ve noticed it too, and sadly, notice it in myself in friendships. There are 3 of us friends from HS, one whom I haven’t seen in over 20 years. But between one commitment and another, we never get around to visiting. I don’t even attempt eBaying, knowing myself.

I notice it even more in business dealings. Except for a delightful local plumber, nothing gets delivered promptly. House repairs, never–except the wonderful plumber. Cable–surely you jest! Car dealers–pffbt!

I suspect with business, the issue comes from near-monopolies coupled with minimum wage employees in inadequate numbers. With individuals, I suspect a combination of distraction, depression, and being overwhelmed by responsibility.

I have the same success hiring people as Smeghead. It is amazing that people develop skills, invest in tools and equipment and start business so they can avoid answering the phone, return messages or show up to appointments.

So, I just do it myself, or go without certain services. When it ain’t raining, my roof is as good as anybody’s!

I live in the SF Bay Area, and nobody here ever does the shit they say they’re going to do.

I feel exactly the same way, and have for most of my adult life (I’m 65). I agree that it seems to have been worsening steadily (for the past 20 years or so), and I very much doubt that it’s because of any “changing expectations” on my part. “Do what you said you were going to do” is a pretty basic standard.