Technology has undoubtedly changed how we communicate for the better. We now have the power to reach people on the other side of the world and learn about current events almost instantly. We use texting and social media to keep in contact with acquaintances and loved ones. We send kissy-face emojis to show affection and write happy birthday on our friends’ timelines. I live hundreds of miles away from my best friends and family members, yet I feel as close to them as ever.
However, texting and the like has also created a dimension of communication that has never existed before — a type of communication that doesn’t require any words at all. Apple has dominated the electronic world for years now. Almost every single person we know owns one an Apple phone (unless you’re a fringe Android user). Centered at the forefront of modern communication, Apple was the first to create an option to show if the person you are texting has read your message. Now, apps like Facebook and Instagram have followed this trend and automatically use read receipts.
While it is ridiculous, I know I am not the only one who gets extremely butthurt, for lack of a better word, when I see someone has read my message and chosen to not respond. My mind starts to wander: Did I say something wrong? Should I send another text? Do they hate me? I thought we were close but I guess not…. It’s as if a switch in my mind has been turned on and I frantically worry my relationship with this person is now suddenly different. Usually, the next time I see him or her I will realize that I was over-exaggerating and that switch will be turned right back off.
The mysteriousness of not knowing whether someone has just skipped over your text on accident or is purposefully ignoring you is beautiful in my eyes. Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you! It’s not worth the unnecessary headache.
As a bad texter, I have never been one to use read receipts. I will read someone’s message and absorb all of the information, then completely forget to respond until five days later. Sometimes, I don’t respond on purpose. I simply just don’t have anything to say in response or get overwhelmed by the constant need to be connected with others. I want to sit with my thoughts for a couple days, or even hours, and respond when I am ready. Hypocritically, when I do this, of course it is harmless or a simple mistake. But then others do the same, I want to curl up in my room and never come out.
My mind starts to wander: Did I say something wrong? Should I send another text? Do they hate me?
Read receipts are not the only confusing from of telecommunication. We’ve all received a “k.” response or interpreted a message with ten exclamation marks as overbearing and off-putting. It has been found that people are much more likely to lie through text versus talking face-to-face or an audio or video chat. The problem is that emotions cannot be interpreted as effectively without observing facial expressions and verbal tones. Read receipts reinforce this ambiguity when they leave the sender questioning what went wrong. Life was less complicated when people were forced to communicate face-to-face.
In 2019, let’s all agree that technology is confusing enough and leave read receipts behind.
Ally McCulloch encourages everyone to stop obsessing over read receipts.
Read receipts on messaging platforms like iMessage, WhatsApp or Facebook have become a contentious topic among users since day one. While many of my friends voice their contempt for this whole level of passive aggressive messaging, I have always appreciated the credible information of the read receipt option whether that is proof for my friend’s ignorance or the clear message of my brother’s disinterest. And let’s be honest, feeding our relationship mind games, our inner control demons just want to know whether someone has read our messages or ditched us again.
In a private chat, my experience is that read receipts also positively impact conversation flows and response time. Once you have opened a message your partner is notified, so you are nudged into responding instantly. Although potentially a source for misunderstandings, a read receipt is a message in itself. And it is even more effective than not replying without the function. You can now avoid uncomfortable rejections or half-hearted conversations by signalling apparent disinterest without utilizing the power of words. It is essentially the straightforward way of finally “telling” your stalking admirer to bugger off.
Apart from facilitating the inconvenient task of giving someone the brush-off, I am convinced that read receipts convey a deep feeling of community and connection. Most people underestimate the reliability in planning and the lack of the feeling of insecurity provided by the function. This applies not only to meeting your date but also in group messages when you spontaneously decide to move your party from your friend’s house to Bill’s Bus on a Thursday night. Also, who has not experienced the beauty of immediate bonding when you text someone for the first time and you see they have the read receipt function as well? I kid you not, it is just mind-blowing to feel this deep connection of living life on the same page with your fellow iPhone buddies.
If you do not want technology in general and the read receipt function in particular to control your deepest fears, you can either go on a life changing phone detox or choose options to read messages without triggering the read receipt. But let’s face it, the detox is probably just one of many new year’s resolutions we won’t fulfil this year so let’s stick to alternatives that include keeping our instruments of sin in our pockets.
Although potentially a source for misunderstandings, a read receipt is a message in itself.
Since we are a student newspaper dedicated to improving student communication for overall happiness and love I would like to end by offering some exclusive sneaky alternatives to circumvent read receipts for y’all: First, the screen pull-down technique allows you to read texts without triggering receipts so you are not pressured to reply at all and your conversation partners are for once not crying themselves to sleep. For our bougie Tim Cook supporters, a.k.a. owners of an iPhone 6S or 6S Plus: You guys can use the new Peek feature to view your screen without triggering the function. You’re welcome! And now, for a change: Immerse yourself in some face-to-face conversations that render this whole messaging magic useless.
Simon Ahrens emphasises the usefulness of read receipts but warns against taking them too seriously.
Ally McCulloch is an Opinion staff writer. In her free time you can find her running to Sands and being allergic to everything.