The engineers of Evite et al probably thought they were doing the world a favor by building a "maybe" button into electronic invitations. Little did they know they were degrading the very fabric of social interaction, writes Elizabeth Bernstein for the Wall Street Journal. Before, invitations required a definitive "yes" or "no." Suddenly, with the "maybe" button, that was gone. "Maybe" invaded our emails and texts and conversations shortly thereafter, giving us a simple way to be noncommittal.
The problem is, "maybe" is unclear—to some, it's a polite "no"; to others, it's a "need to check my calendar"; to others, it's a "let me see if something better comes along." And thanks to smartphones, we can wait until the very last second to text and say "Yes! I will be there." A Facebook employee told Bernstein that a maybe is a "hedge bet"—but it's really about "power and boundaries," one psychiatrist explains. "Person A who says, 'Yeah, maybe,' essentially puts recipient B on hold. B is powerless."