Read Receipts: A Personal Preference

By Jane C.


I am addicted to my iPhone. My phone is my constant companion, always at my side, if not actually in my hand. Like, if my phone had a Facebook, we would probably be tagged in more pictures together than I am with some of my closest friends. An uncomfortable hypothetical situation with a strong likelihood of truth were I to go and create a Facebook profile for “Jane’s iPhone.” Welcome to the 21st century everyone!!! What a time to be alive. That being said, I hope phones never have Facebook profiles.

When I said I was addicted to my iPhone, admitting an addiction to texting might be more accurate. I always ask myself when the “texting phase” of my life will be over, and why Freud didn’t have the foresight to provide theories for this CRUCIAL stage in human psychosexual development. I love texting. I love updating my friends and family and telling my crush about something that reminded me of a conversation we had earlier, and I love being able to do so pretty much wherever and whenever.

And that’s why I don’t mind read receipts. Whether you love them or hate them, pronounce them “reed” or “red” receipts, there’s no denying their increasing presence in our daily online interactions. Read receipts are hard to ignore, even though they may make you feel ignored from time to time. I have a friend who says read receipts are “single handedly ruining her life” and one who swears she will never turn them off. I’ve heard both sides of the argument, and I have made the informed decision to turn mine on. And here’s why.

In a world where communication has become more and more about efficiency and immediacy, when we send a message, we expect an answer. And we expect it usually sooner rather than later. People can text pretty much anytime, and I understand that they’ll get back to my text when they can or when they want to. I turned my read receipts on because it’s no secret I’m always with my phone. I really can’t be sneaky and so I make no attempts. A certain level of transparency is important in meaningful communication. I am a very private person, but I don’t think read receipts are invasive. They’re honest. And I’m positive that read receipts have helped, rather than hurt, the way I communicate with others. To a certain degree, they hold me more accountable for my interactions – long gone are the days of “oops I didn’t get your message!” – but by no means do they directly dictate how I communicate.

We have a general cultural understating that reading something without replying is the ultimate rejection. And to be reminded of this “rejection” is to suffer the worst possible fate. Personally, I think it’s nice to know when someone reads my message. For me, seeing a stamp “Read 7:45 PM” without a response creates much less anxiety than a “delivered” with no indication of whether or not the text has been read yet. At least I know my message was opened and read, instead of seeing a “delivered” that provides no information. A nonresponse is a nonresponse either way, and I take comfort in knowing I wasn’t completely ignored. And also in the fact that I can rule out “death” as a reason for not answering my message.

While turning on read receipts is an option on iMessage, read receipts are the default on Facebook chat and Snapchat. I think one of the main reasons read receipts create tension, pressure, and anxiety is because they aren’t officially or universally “the norm.” Turning on my read receipts on iMessage has helped me adjust to this shift toward accountability and immediacy that communication keeps pushing for, and I suggest you all give it a try. Even just for a day. One argument I hear over and over against read receipts is that they’re just confirmation that you’re being ignored. But the way I see it, they’re a small confirmation that you’re being READ.

That’s the whole thing. Give texting time. As much as I love texting, I sometimes have to take breaks to eat, sleep, and write blog posts about texting. And I’m sure you all have other things to do too than sit by your phone all day and answer my questions about the temperature outside before I get out of bed, share thoughts about the latest LIZ single, and joke about Dawson’s Creek. I would rather have an answer a little later, especially about something important, composed thoughtfully rather than quickly. Texting is a means of communication, a way to convey information and a way to build relationships. Texting is NOT an exercise designed to increase thumb speed or a cruel communication competition created to crush our feelings. Read receipts only have the power that you give them. And that’s why I don’t mind them.

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