On any given day, I probably get about 20 text messages and just as many Facebook messages. While there’s the odd one containing important information, most are folks asking for favours (including complete strangers) or asking how I’m doing (again, including complete strangers).
It’s nice. I guess. I mean, it’s sort of nice.
But pretty much everyday I feel overwhelmed by the number of messages that really weren’t necessary to send. There’s often someone annoyed with me for not responding quickly and I’ve lost a couple of friends because they completely flipped at my inability to respond to messages (that weren’t time-sensitive) in a timely manner.
I understand. It’s frustrating when you can’t get ahold of someone. But it’s also frustrating to constantly be inundated with demands to communicate for no particular reason. Especially when the sender adds in several extra messages that simply scream the receiver’s name.
The pressure to respond combined with fear of the repercussions if I don’t do so immediately are a huge source of stress and anxiety for me. Once a week, I sit down and go through all the messages I plan on answering, deleting the ones that I don’t have any intention of responding to (winky-faces, people picking fights). About three or four times a week, I sit down planning to go through these messages and then chicken-out because I know that as soon as I respond, I’ll be flooded with responses, some of which will be people getting mad at me for not updating them on how I’m doing quickly enough.
The original message was likely someone reaching out to show they care, but I’d argue that becoming infuriated when someone doesn’t respond to a message is not an act of caring at all.
Here are some ways I electronically receive and give care to folks:
- Send a text/private message/email letting friends know they’re being thought of, but without any pressure on them to respond right away, or at all;
- Shoot a message with something interesting, such as a GIF, link to an interesting article or funny picture. This let’s them know folks are thinking of them, but also helps improve their day with a little something fun;
- Set-up a time to meet in-person; or
- Send a postcard or package.
If they don’t respond, chill out. It’s nothing personal. We’re all so hyper-connected, it’s no longer reasonable to expect instant replies or even replies at all, in some cases. Me not responding doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I’m too busy taking care of myself to have non-meaningful interactions online.
Illustration by Jean Pierre Gallot.