Message: seen. Read at 3pm.
No comment from the other end. Sounds familiar? I’m sure we all have dealt with situations where we sent a text, only to be left hanging like the Mona Lisa. This has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. I mean, how hard is it to answer a simple question or provide a short response? When left on read, my anxiety skyrockets, as my mind travels through a million fictional scenarios:
“Oh no they hate me!”
“I did something wrong without knowing, and now they must be mad at me.”
“What if they fell into the sewer or are in the hospital? I mean, that must be the most plausible reason if it’s been days…”
I would spend hours overanalyzing my messages, trying to pick out any peculiarities. Over time, delayed responses have bothered me less as I’ve learned how to cope in healthier ways. If you suffer from bad texter anxiety, remember that you are not alone.
The first step to combating bad texter anxiety is avoiding catastrophization and panic. I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s worth a shot! While it’s natural to get anxious and jump to conclusions, doing so only hurts you in the process. To prevent yourself from getting sucked into the spiral of questioning, occupy your time with fulfilling hobbies and activities. Switch off your phone or put it on Do not Disturb (a lifesaver!) to prevent obsessing over notifications. The more you sit there wondering, the more your mind runs rampant with detrimental scenarios. When you’re productive, you are less likely to dwell on these thoughts. Oftentimes, you’ll get that response when you least expect it.
When waiting for a response, allow your friend time before barraging them with double texts. My general rule of thumb is giving the other person a few days. If they don’t reply in over 72 hours, you can follow up and ask if everything is okay. Make sure you ask them calmly though, to avoid appearing passive aggressive. I promise, 99.9999999% of the time response time it has nothing to do with you personally, even though it can plant seeds of doubt. They may be super busy, or swiped on the notification with the intent of responding later, but forgot. Depending on the nature of the message, they may not know how to respond in the moment, and need some time to collect their thoughts. When this occurs, it can be helpful to think back to a time when you have done the same without meaning to. I guarantee that everyone has done this at least once, myself included. Other times, people may not want to respond right off the bat because they simply need time to themselves. I know this can be hard to digest, especially when you see that person is active on social media, but sometimes people just want to scroll through their feeds to relax before replying.
It’s always important to consider the person you are contacting is going through something that you don’t know about. They could be fighting mental health battles or going through family issues. I know firsthand that depression can be draining, because there certainly have been moments where I couldn’t bring myself to answer anybody. When this is the case, know that the other person isn’t intentionally being rude or sour; they simply do not have the energy to communicate. In these situations, the best you can do is to give them some space and time. Let them know that you’re there for them and that they can talk to you anytime when they’re ready.
If long response times are negatively affecting a friendship or relationship, talk to that person about your feelings, and reach an agreement on new expectations, or better times for communication. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that this will make them change their texting habits altogether. However, talking it through will allow the bad texter room for growth and improvement. Note: if someone you know constantly ignores you, but responds to others instantly, then it’s time to either message them less or let that person go. It can hurt, but your sanity matters.
It may be tempting to keep your phone or device right by your side 24/7 lest someone responds, but this only leads to escalating disappointment. While you can’t control how others behave, you do control how you react to and interpret your surroundings. Once you manifest these mindful practices, you’ll understand that the deafening silence has nothing to do with you! You deserve to live your life in the present moment, liberated from your notifications.
Written by: Stephanie Wan