It never feels good to be left on read. When I had a few close friends confront me and ask why I never answer their texts, I couldn’t really give them an answer. It’s not that I don’t like that friend or I don’t value what they have to say. I just simply can’t bring myself to respond. To be clear, I answer direct and important questions, but things start to get fuzzy when it comes to casual conversations. In this post, I explore texting culture and anxiety. I also speak to a close friend who finds herself in a similar situation.
Am I The Only One?
I began with a Google search to see if texting culture and anxiety is a real issue and if others experience it. First, I found a Reddit thread of people discussing how nerve-racking it can be to answer casual messages. One user said, “Sometimes I’ll purposefully not click on the text as to mark it as read.” I do this all the time. I’ll let notifications build up for days until I know it’s been too long and I have to answer them all. It felt good to know I’m not the only one who leaves people on
Why Am I Like This?
Now, I know I’m not the only person on the planet with an unfavourable habit. I turned to some articles that might be able to answer why people purposely don’t respond. One CBC article written by Clifton Mark offered some interesting insight. He wrote that social media has created a “sense of obligation.” We feel an unprecedented sense of responsibility to answer messages and fear that our responses will let people down. This overwhelming self-imposed responsibility can cause anxiety that results in avoiding those messages and letting them pile up. This was sort of my “aha” moment, where I realized my anxiety has an impact on my texting. I feel pressure to make sure my response will be adequate and accepted by the recipient. I fear they will be let down by my response and this snowballs into an irrational fear that now that person hates me.
Why Are WE Like This?
Next, I decided to turn to my good friend Sarah to discuss this habit we both share. We agreed that this stems from the pressure to craft a quality response, which has absolutely nothing to do with the person who texted us. Here is what Sarah had to say about the topic:
“I guess sometimes I’m busy when I get texts, or I’m about to go to bed and I always stupidly think “I’ll remember to reply later/tomorrow.” Other times I’m not really sure what to say or I need to think about a good reply. Then I inevitably forget to respond in a timely manner and I’m busy again, but I tell myself that I will obviously respond soon. Then the cycle repeats and here I am on month three. The time between makes me anxious, which allows me to conclude that the person who texted me is probably upset with how irresponsible I am and how little I care about our relationship. I’m stuck because how do you apologize for not texting you back 3 months ago?”
” I haven’t posted on my Instagram at all since I haven’t responded to a person who follows me because I fear that they will see it and think “Wow, how could you do something on your phone when you haven’t texted me back in 3 months? If you’re posting you can obviously reply. If I answer your text, I’ll be exposed to all the other notifications I’ve been ignoring and then I have to check them out. Now, I’m distracted and not writing that essay that is due in 6 hours.”
YES. That is EXACTLY how I feel. Whenever I am about to make a post on any social media platform, I go back and answer all of my messages with the classic, “sorry I never answered this..” Just to make sure they don’t see the post and then hate me because I didn’t respond. I find it inhibits my ability to make friends or get closer
The process in my head before I answer a message begins with ensuring I have all my thoughts in order to craft a solid response. But, what if they decide to continue the conversation for longer? Then who will be the one to put the conversation to its inevitable end? So instead, I push the message to the side because I can just answer it later which turns into never.
Sarah also added,
“Texting isn’t important in my personal part of the relationships I keep. But I know a lot of people prioritize it. It’s just not my preferred way to bond. Being with you in person is much more fulfilling for me. So if you text me ‘Want to hang out tonight?’ I’ll probably respond instantly. If I haven’t seen you in
awhileand you’re actually a really good friend, that text I didn’t reply to shouldn’t matter at all.”
I completely agree with Sarah on this and that is one of the many reasons we are best friends. We don’t find validation in a text message response and are relatively unaffected when someone doesn’t answer our message. I know when she doesn’t answer my message it has nothing to do with me and that if I really needed her she would be there or respond to that important message.
What Am I Going to do About it?
It wouldn’t be very helpful for me to make a bold statement like, “texting culture gives me anxiety” and leave it at that. The point of writing this article was to help improve and hold myself accountable. Believe me, I would much rather provide my friends with timely responses and not stress about what to say.
I want to start by making a point to answer all my unanswered messages in my inbox each night. This way, it won’t be days until my friends get a response. Also, I will do my best to just write exactly what I want to say and not stress about the phrasing, emojis, or what they will think. It really just comes down to the fact that I need to not take texting so seriously. Texting is meant to make communication easier, not stressful. Let me know in the comments if you feel anxious when texting and what you do to combat it.
I didn’t write this post as an excuse for the fact that texting gives me anxiety. I didn’t write it as an apology either. As mentioned, texting is not how I like to bond with friends. I won’t prioritize something I don’t find to be particularly important. This is just a look into the other side of the conversation. On the flip side, the people who are upset when they don’t get a response are allowed to feel that.
In short, the obligation I feel to carefully craft a solid response and carry a conversation causes anxiety that leads to letting messages pile up. A face to face conversation forces you to respond in real-time, which is no problem for me. Text messages and emails allow you a window of time to respond which usually causes me to overthink the response and put it off until I forget about the text altogether. Then I worry that the recipient will think I’m a bad person and I don’t care. When in reality, I care too much.
I would love to read any feedback! Check out my about page if you would rather email a response.
Check Out My Last Post: Clothing Donation Cons and The Dark Side of Donating