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''Delivered", "read". Instant messaging apps keep us on a short leash

''Delivered", "read". Instant messaging apps keep us on a short leash

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
03.10.2023 16:30

Instant messaging apps keep us in a constant state of communication readiness. Do our relationships really benefit from this?

Relationships between people are a delicate and complicated matter. New, unwritten but common and already rigid rules have imperceptibly emerged in them since 2009, when WhatsApp was created. For the past 14 years IM etiquette has provided us with reasons for unease and misunderstanding.

IM apps have put us on constant alert

IM apps have made it possible for us to communicate with whoever and whenever we want. They helped us emotionally survive COVID-19 pandemic and they help sustain relationships with loved ones who are too far away to meet face-to-face on a daily basis. The benefits seem so obvious that we often don't think about the price we pay for them.

Being in constant communication readiness, however, is exhausting. It is enforced by the delivery and read state notifications that the sender is presented with. It has become accepted that the greatest "insult" is to leave someone in "read" status.

It is therefore common for us to ignore notifications of messages we receive, so that sender can’t see whether we’ve already seen the message. Many people have even resorted to trying to block the display of any notifications so that they can actually regain control of when they reach for instant messaging.

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In doing so, we try to carve out some time and mental space for ourselves, while at the same time not subject our loved ones to the sense of rejection that arises when we don't get a response to a read message. We are ultra-social animals. Scientists have found that rejection activates the same areas in our brain as physical pain.

The practice of ignoring notifications is so common that the distinction between "delivered" and "read" begins to blur. Both can create a sense of being ignored. Most people have their phone at hand for most of the day, so they see messages coming in, even if they choose not to read them right away. Thanks to instant messaging, we have grown to believe that we "deserve" to have loved ones respond quickly, at any time of the day or night.

What are messengers taking away from us?

The problem is so widespread that tricks are going viral on social media about how to "silently" read messages. All so that the sender doesn't get a read state notification, obliging us to respond immediately.

In a column for theindependent.co.uk, Oliver Keens noted that we are beginning to value our romantic relationships not on the quality of communication, but on its speed. Videos are popping up on TikTok with female authors bragging about how quickly their partners read and reply to messages. The holy grail is to respond to a message the very same minute it was sent to us.

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Keens a bit ironically says that none of the great poets today would create a rousing love poem because they wouldn't have the time. The chosen one would be offended by waiting for him to put his feelings into words. On the other hand, he stresses that it is a good idea to find out how much tolerance each person in the relationship has for "delays" in communication, which can help avoid misunderstandings.

Instant messaging simultaneously facilitates and complicates interpersonal relationships. However, read and delivered state notifications only serve to pull our attention to the app, which results in profits for the companies behind them. Should we have the option not to receive these notifications?

Source: The Independent

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