by Wendy Morley
I know, I know. As people get older they start moaning about all the changes to society. They like things to remain as they’re used to (and often create some Pollyanna version of reality, but that’s another topic).
Personally, I’m good with change. I’m obsessed with new music and I love how the human mind can create new realities that completely turn the world as we know it on its head. A short time ago, there was no useable form of electricity. There were no cars, no radios and no telephones, let alone cell phones. Ancestors of mine who came over to the “new world” in the early 19th century knew they would never see their families again. Their letters home (which they wrote in tiny script, crossing lines over each other like gingham in order to make the very most use of a sheet of paper because otherwise they would cost too much to send) would take months to journey to their destination.
But, as is often the case, we begin to take for granted what comes too easily, and in this case it’s communication. Case in point, an incredibly irritating and extremely disrespectful trend has popped up in the last few years: the non-reply.
You send an email or a text to a person, and you get no response. Zero.
Sure, there are plenty of circumstances where you might not want to reply right away. You’re spending time communicating with a live human being, for example, or you’re enjoying the great outdoors, or you’re driving, or you don’t see the message until later, or you’re just plain busy. Not answering right away for these reasons is perfectly fine. Maybe sometimes you intend to reply later and forget. This is moderately acceptable but requires an apology.
Just because it’s possible to get in touch with a person every second of the day doesn’t mean that person wants to be gotten in touch with every second of the day. I get it. I don’t want constant messages either.
But there is a distinct line where not replying moves past being busy, moves past being otherwise occupied, moves past being briefly forgetful and becomes just plain rude. Not only is it rude, it is an outright declaration of your own elevated importance relative to the other person, and therefore your douchbaggery, whatever your gender.
This is what it not replying tells the other person: I understand that you took the thought and the time to communicate with me, but you are not really worthy of me taking the time or thought in return.
“But wait!” you respond to what you just read, “I’m not a douchebag! X texts me 5,000 times a day and I can’t possibly respond all the time!”
We’re not going to get into the neediness of someone who texts you 5,000 times per day here, but assuming you actually want this person in your life, you would explain: “Look, you’re important to me but you text me way too many times to answer, plus it’s driving me crazy. I can’t possibly answer 5,000 texts per day, so I’ll just get back to you every now and again. And if it’s really important, call me.”
There. You see how easy that was? That is called communication, and it’s a very basic animal requirement.
“But I don’t really want him/her in my life!” you say instead. “He/she texts me all the time and I’m not interested!” Then you’re either being a weak coward or you’re stringing someone along, both of which make you a douchebag. You see the trend here?
Next time someone messages you and you are inclined to not reply, try this reply instead, because it’s what you’re really saying and believe me, that’s what that person is hearing: “Sorry, you’re not worthy of a reply from me.”
Newsflash: You are not more important than the person trying to communicate with you, though not replying just might make you less so. Have a little respect.