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I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s perfectly OK for someone to post on social media even though they haven’t replied to your text messages yet.
Sure, it’s polite and respectful to respond to messages and answer questions as soon as possible, but taking a few hours — or even days — to do so doesn’t always mean someone is actively trying to be rude or disrespectful toward you.
It’s easy to get annoyed with people who take a while to respond to messages — especially if you see them tweeting, sharing articles to Facebook, or posting Instagram stories in the meantime. Trust me, I get it.
my biggest pet peeve is me texting you and seeing you post on social media and not text me back
— Mr.NewJersey (@iamdjbake) January 5, 2020
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 I’d see them post on social media, I’d admittedly wonder, “What the hell?” But then, something changed.
I grew increasingly overwhelmed with work, life, and all the chaos going on in the world, and my anxiety made it impossible to text anyone back. I started having to wait until it subsided to reply to people, and that’s when I realized delayed responses aren’t always what they seem.
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. That’s not always easy to give.
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 I’d 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 hadn’t forgotten to respond. I’d 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.
if you can post on social media you can text someone back. simple concept.
— harliee :)) (@_harlieee__) May 27, 2020
do not talk to me if you can post on social media but not text back 🤨
— Paul S (@Psychotropix) January 13, 2020
Unless the person you message has read receipts turned on, you likely won’t be able to tell when, or if, they’ve had a chance to read your texts. If you picture someone being too busy to stop and look at their phones — as I’m sure my friend was doing with me — it’s easy to rationalize delayed responses. But if a person you’ve 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 they’re on social media, they’re clearly using technology, so why can’t they take a few extra minutes to answer you?
On the surface, this logic makes sense. But it’s 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. There’s 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 isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Sometimes self-care means not texting back right away
Depending on the conversation topic and where you’re 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 it’s 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 didn’t 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 you’re not in the right mindset to reply to text messages immediately, you shouldn’t. 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 message’s content and urgency in mind. If someone’s asking a question that requires an immediate response, do your best to respond in a timely fashion. And if someone needs help, you obviously shouldn’t 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 you’re too overwhelmed to chat, but please avoid using that viral text reply template.
And remember, there’s definitely a difference between waiting until you feel emotionally ready to text someone back and straight-up ghosting them. Don’t ghost people, that’s rude as hell.
Be kind to yourself and others
Ultimately, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you never know exactly what someone is going through when they receive your text messages.
Cut yourself, and others, some slack, and try not to read too much into text delays — even if you see people posting on social media before they’ve replied. (If the wait really bothers you, you can always confront them about it. And you might end up having an eye-opening talk like I did with my friend.)
As someone who’s avoided replying to family members and friends I absolutely adore because of sheer emotional exhaustion, I can tell you that delays aren’t always ill-intentioned. Sometimes people are just overwhelmed.