I used to make every effort to reply to texts within seconds of receiving them, so I often got frustrated when others took a while to respond to me. When people would leave my texts unanswered and Id see them post on social media, Id admittedly wonder, “What the hell?” But then, something changed.
Sending a text seems like one of the simplest tasks in the world. You tap your phone screen to form words and smash the send button, right? Most of the time I do consider texting to be an extremely low-energy task, but much like in-person conversations, communicating digitally sometimes requires real effort, vulnerability, and thoughtfulness. Thats not always easy to give.
WHAT HAPPENS When You DON’T TEXT BACK Right Away? The DIRTY SECRET To OCCUPYING Her Thoughts 24/7!!!
Texting and using social media require different levels of effort
At some point over the past few years, I began staring at light gray iMessage bubbles that read things like, “How are you?” or “How was your week?” in absolute terror. My thumbs became paralyzed at the sight of daunting questions that required deep levels of introspection or explanation on my part, so Id put off responding until I felt up to the challenge.
I occasionally let my text messages pile up unanswered, but I kept living my life and posting to social media. It seemed like a good system, until one of my friends called me out.
“Hi, remember me???” a friend replied to my Instagram story one Saturday. She had texted me the day before, and I hadnt forgotten to respond. Id had a truly horrible week and wanted to take the weekend to recover. I had every intention of replying to her non-urgent text on Monday, but because she saw me using Instagram, she felt I should have texted her back already.
Unless the person you message has read receipts turned on, you likely wont be able to tell when, or if, theyve had a chance to read your texts. If you picture someone being too busy to stop and look at their phones — as Im sure my friend was doing with me — its easy to rationalize delayed responses. But if a person youve messaged posts to social media before replying to you, their silence in DMs is often taken as a slap in the face.
The common thought process here is that if someone has the time to casually be online, then they must have time to reply to your text. If theyre on social media, theyre clearly using technology, so why cant they take a few extra minutes to answer you?
On the surface, this logic makes sense. But its not always as simple as someone failing to carve out time. People might be posting to social media during a quick break from work, they could be using social media to distract themselves from daily dread, or they might quickly post something in the presence of other people and not have the time to devote to texting. Theres also the chance that they just might have forgotten to reply.
When my friend called me out for not answering her, I replied honestly. I explained that for me, posting on social media requires much less effort than engaging in a personal conversation. I told her I was taking the weekend to recharge my social batteries, and she was super understanding. We ended up having a really productive conversation about how texting isnt always as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes self-care means not texting back right away
Depending on the conversation topic and where youre at in life mentally/emotionally, chatting with people can be challenging.
Reminding myself that texts like, “How are you?” can demand significantly more detailed responses than than texts like, “Have you watched Better Call Saul yet?” helps me understand and justify delayed responses. And acknowledging that mindlessly scrolling through Twitter or posting photos of food can be easier than talking about your life helped me accept that its perfectly fine to use social media in between receiving and answering texts.
Sometimes self-care means not texting back right away, and that became extraordinarily clear to me this year amid the coronavirus pandemic and George Floyd protests.
When my mind was racing to grapple with all the new coronavirus social distancing guidelines, medical research, and death tolls, I had trouble replying to texts in a timely manner. I did, however, find some semblance of calm on Instagram, and I continued sharing informative updates on Twitter.
And after George Floyd died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes, I barely texted anyone for days. I took time to watch protests spread around the world; to read books and articles, and to watch films to further educate myself on the history of racism and police brutality. I made an effort to donate to organizations, sign petitions, and support black-owned businesses.
Though I didnt feel ready to reply to non-urgent texts for a full week, I felt it was imperative that I continue to use my social media platforms to help raise awareness on the issues at hand and share invaluable resources.
Exceptions to the rule
If youre not in the right mindset to reply to text messages immediately, you shouldnt. Prioritizing your mental health is important. But you should also choose which texts to leave hanging on a case-by-case basis.
Always keep a messages content and urgency in mind. If someones asking a question that requires an immediate response, do your best to respond in a timely fashion. And if someone needs help, you obviously shouldnt ignore them.
If you wait to text back, be sure to acknowledge and apologize for the delay when you do get around to it. You can even be upfront with people and let them know upon receiving their message that you need a day or two to get back to them — that way you can relax without the unanswered text lingering in the back of your mind. Be honest with people if youre too overwhelmed to chat, but please avoid using that viral text reply template.
And remember, theres definitely a difference between waiting until you feel emotionally ready to text someone back and straight-up ghosting them. Dont ghost people, thats rude as hell.