Never in human history was it as easy to reach someone as it is today.
A hyperconnected world, society proceeding on multiple social media platforms whereever we go.
Reach and Reply in a multitude of ways, among them several apps.
Not even driving can stop us from reading what was sent.
There’s no introduction or goodbye, just a duet of notifications back and forth, the conversation seemingly never formally stops; until it does.
In an instant, we are annoyed.
How dare they?
They take their phone with them everywhere, and it cannot be that hard to pick it up and just reply for a second! It says right there, they were online even after the message was sent! Clear as day, read at 3.54PM, last seen 3.59PM. 5 minutes!
We rant in our heads.
Could we be annoying them? We read the last pieces of the conversation over and over again.
Was there any sign that this was coming?
Insecurity, quickly replaced by frustration.
We send a snappy, yet still friendly reminder.
Self-righteousness kicks in; aren’t we the one being wronged? The one disrespected and ignored?
Edit message: A river of words, gushing from the well of hurt. That’ll show them!
We feel better, like we really stood up for ourselves.
The anger slowly sinks into the cracks where it came from. We check the phone again.
They haven’t read the new message.
God, it really is overdramatic, isn’t it?
The future came, and so did a message.
They were out and their battery was, as well.
In comparison to our history, we are rich in communication and the time to wait for a reply is extremely quick. Still, scenarios like the above happen.
One reason could be the ever growing amount of information we get in our messengers about the messages sent and received.
A radical thought:
For what would we possibly need ‘Last Seen’ or ‘Read at’ if not to get a sense of control over a conversation or person, and acting entitled to another person’s time?
Think about it.
We seemingly hold people accountable over this information, and feel like checking the times so we feel like they are being honest and reliable. We don’t only check feeds, we check people. We want to control.
It is so obvious now that these features are contributing to negative effects of online use.
What purpose do these features fulfill if not to cause us inner turmoil over sent messages and our own insecurity of coming off as needy, annoying, or rude?
Isn’t it just a way for us to artificially and wrongfully measure how much we could possibly mean to a person?
Before, we would accept when someone didn’t pick up the phone. We were okay with the fact that someone wasn’t home. We didn’t know if someone received a letter until we got their reply letter back. Hearing back from them could take a while, but it was okay. We knew people have lives of their own.
Now, we are so used to everything being available to us immediately, with answers to everything at our fingertips, that we expect the same thing from the people around us.
Is that fair?
To wish to decide when someone else should reply, or what place we should take in their lives?
To forego their actual character qualities and judge people instead on their phone attendance?
Do we really think we are so important that everyone should drop what they’re doing to reply to us specifically, or do we really mistrust our friends so much that we think there is no valid reason behind their silence?
Not only the information skews our communication, even the actual message features.
Imagine a typewriter: Backspace isn’t possible. What you wrote on the paper cannot be deleted, it is inked. You better think about what you wanna write and how you write it before you commit.
In real life it is similar: what is said is said. You have to deal with the consequences. You can’t take it back, you can’t make it unheard, you can’t reverse to a point where you didn’t say it.
You also can’t edit out specific words or phrases you regret, or change the meaning of your sentence.
Before you say something, you have to be sure you wanna say it, that you should say it and how – otherwise you’ll be in trouble potentially. You have to weigh the pros and cons, be ready for the consequences of your behavior.
That is missing with online communication. This inhibition towards saying something, this little force that drives us to reconsider and make sure we’re really writing something how we want it to be, how we want to be.
We ask an insensitive or embarassing question, and we reconsider after sending it and delete it. We lash out in anger, and later on hope the other person hasn’t seen it and sheepishly remove it.
The ability to edit and delete online really takes away that incentive to check what we say. We can be really impulsive, brash, insulting or cold-hearted because we learned: ‘I can just let it out, and once I cooled off or get backlash, I can change it or delete it altogether.’ But first, there comes this part in us that we actually wouldn’t want anyone to know about, that we are ashamed of having let out once it is back in control.
Offline, we can’t control our words once they leave our mouths or how they are regarded, but we attempt that online.
Online, we expect the best selves of everyone else, attempting to get a sense of control how and when they reply to us; while deleting and editing ourselves into how we want to be perceived.
The entitlement is new, and how we let ourselves loose thanks to Editing and Deleting deserves attention. We have to recognize it inside of us and reevaluate if these features and this behavior is adding anything good to our lives. Chances are, it doesn’t.
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