How lucky we are to be living in a time that we can communicate with one another at the click of a button. Instantaneous delivery of the messages we want to share with each other through texts, emails, Facebook messages and the list goes on. All available for the recipient to view right away – sometimes even providing the sender with a notification that they have done so.
We are the most connected society in history (though superficially I would argue) and every day each of us are bombarded with communication from businesses, work, family and friends. According to http:www.statisticbrain.com/text-message-statistics/, the average monthly texts sent has increased 7,700% over the last decade.
There is no disputing that there are a lot of messages sent and received between us every day. And we often take brief moments throughout our day to check these messages and then go back to the demands of our life. We might take these moments while waiting in line at the grocery store or after dinner finishes before starting our evening routine. We take these moments to check but we don’t always have time to respond.
And there was a time not so long a time ago that this was acceptable – to receive a message from someone without the expectation of a response being sent right away.
It was a time when we mailed letters to people or left phone messages and we waited for their reply. It was a time when it was acceptable for the recipient to read their letter or listen to their message and then go back to their busy schedule – responding later when they felt they had time.
However as our society has been evolving and with this increased ability to send instant communication it seems there has also been a change in society’s expectation of how quickly it is responded to.
I was recently enlightened to just this – a change in some people’s thinking. A friend/acquaintance and I had had a brief texting conversation on a Friday about each of our upcoming weekend plans. The last text they sent had said “Have fun this weekend!”. I had received the message in a moment of busyness and did not respond. Early the following week they followed up with this;
And then they proceeded to block me. And delete me – from everything. Ouch.
I immediately felt bad as I hadn’t realized this person was expecting to hear anything from me since that day. I had continued on after our conversation spending the weekend having fun just as they had suggested.
I spent time with family and friends – having conversations and connecting. I spent a day with my son petting stingrays and observing ocean life at the aquarium. I was busy living my life and it didn’t include texting, emailing or Facebook messaging anyone unless it was an emergency or someone really needed me.
Shocked and slightly hurt I was left wondering how we ended up here. When did we start to measure how good of a friend someone was or how important we are to them by their response time? I am pretty certain that life has not slowed down any since the time of writing letters and leaving phone messages when people responded when they had time.
I am not suggesting it is acceptable to ignore someone requesting attention because they need something from you or a situation where someone is purposely being hurtful and ignoring messages – “ghosting” as they call it.
What I am wondering is when did it become reasonable to expect that people should respond the moment that they receive a message – EVEN when you know they have read it? When did we stop respecting that we all are very busy in our “real lives” outside of Smartphones and social media.
Yes many of us are connected to our phones and we do often check and read our messages but it is often in one of those moments. The pause that we take from the demands of our lives and we may not have the time to send the thoughtful response that we would like to.
So as much as I am frustrated to know someone I considered a friend did not seem to understand just this- I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a great group of friends who do.
Friends who know that if their house is not on fire or they don’t desperately need my shoulder to lean on it may take me awhile. It doesn’t mean that they don’t mean that much to me or that I don’t value their friendship. It just means that on some days I might just be too busy petting stingrays with my son and living my life. And sorry but I’m not sorry – I won’t apologize for that.
Johanna Goodfellow is from Belleville, Ontario, is mom to three incredible kids and works full time in social work. She is an aspiring writer, avid hiker and over thinker. She has been previously published on BLUNTmoms, Scary Mommy and Elephant Journal. You can find her at www.missjohannamarie.com