I’ve attached myself to a generation that will do whatever it takes to avoid confrontation. That’s why I don’t blame DeAndre Jordan for the way he handled retreating on his decision to join the Mavericks this past summer. I blame every mid-20s kid in existence.
Seems irrational, right? Nope, it’s not.
I’m 26 years old, one year younger than DJ, and I, along with everyone else in our age group, am dealing with the same thing DeAndre did all the time. You see it in dating endlessly. Go out with someone only once, twice, three times, and there’s this new way to break up with him or her: just cut off all contact without any warning.
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Old souls call it rude, inconsiderate. More pessimistic products of a texting generation that’s done all it can to adjust social norms have a more catchy phrase for it: "The phase out."
There are no rules with the phase out. All is fair, all is good. Nothing says how many dates you need to go on before it’s no longer viable to phase out a partner. Nothing explains how you go about stopping to respond. You just do it. You don’t answer no matter how many times you receive, "Hey, when do you want to meet up again?" because you are damn loyal to the phase out. You leave whomever you’re dating out to dry until your text messaging history makes him or her look like a legitimate crazy person. Confrontation isn’t an option if you can avoid it.
The phase out is something that couldn’t have happened before texting existed. This is a new kind of breakup, one that takes a little more time to understand if you’re the breakup-ee, but that’s patently obvious once you do actually make the connection. Maybe it’s worse. Maybe it’s better. Whatever it is, it’s certainly different, an adjustment from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations which were far more organic in their human-to-human interactions, probably because those interactions didn’t involve machines in place of actual humans. Aziz Ansari, who’s always good for some meta jabs at millennials, even has a bit about how texting has effectively ruined breakup communication (here’s the link, which has some NSFW language, but is highly worth watching).
And thus brings us back to Jordan, who gave Mavericks owner Mark Cuban the phase out after deciding to go back to the Clippers during the second week of July. DeAndre had only been flirting with the Mavs a week. A week! Do you know how short a time that is for a 27-year-old? Kids in their mid-20s are horrified of two things: crisis and commitment. Do you even know what happens when you combine those two? A week-long flirt is nothing for someone who’s a product of a generation that likes to "keep things casual" for months before unnaturally dispersing.
DeAndre merely used the phase out. It’s not admirable. It’s not mature. But it is forgivable. If we forever hated everyone who employed the phase out, we’d be losing a lot of friends. So, as Cuban threatens to release some of DJ’s belated texts, we have to remember that this sort of behavior isn’t unique to 27-year-olds, just to NBA free agency.