Being ignored in the age of social media… it’s been on my mind for a few years since everyone moved over from the MSN Messenger days to SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc. Hell, on my old blog many years ago I wrote about “The Seen Zone” – it was about my frustrations on being left on read by many people – yeah I got a lot of shit for that one.
However, it’s something that I keep experiencing over and over.
Whether it’s trying to reconnect with friends from a previous life stage, or trying to network with people in the industries (education and retail) that I work in, or trying to meet new people I match with on an app – being left on read, effectively being ignored in this technological age of social media; it’s more frustrating and hurtful than it should be.
In the past, I would get angry and upset – that kind of sparked the “Seen Zone” blog post I had in the past. I was blaming others. I was effectively venting out an eloquent tantrum to make myself feel better.
However, I’m much older now and have learned a lot more about how to deal with this: With headings and with more forgiveness.
It’s Not Me. It’s You.
First thing I had to realise each time I was left on ‘read’ is that it reflects more about the other person than on me.
Mark Manson in “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” says it’s “the norm in Western cultures to smile and say polite things even when you don’t feel like it, to tell little white lies and agree with someone whom you don’t actually agree with. This is why people learn to pretend to be friends with people they don’t actually like…”
Being ignored is essentially a clear sign that someone does not value the relationship (or they’re too bloody busy). It’s a pretence of politeness as it may be too “awkward” to reject someone outright – so the other option is to just ghost and hope the “problem”, i.e. __You__ will go away.
Realising this, I do go away and stop pursuing that thread of connection. Not out of politeness or to avoid awkwardness – but because I can read the social situation and respect their wish that I should fuck off. I’ve learned the hard way in the past what happens if you do keep pressing on – you get blocked and get called a creep. Trust me, it’s not worth it, absolutely not the proudest moment of my life when I was 22.
The best option is to move on from this person I’m trying to contact, forgive them for their behaviour, and forget about them: i.e. place the connection into the metaphorical trash until they get back in touch with me.
Ultimately, they’re the ones who have decided to leave a lasting impression on their character by their actions (or rather, inaction).
No anger, no resentment, just moving on.
It’s not me. It’s you.
I’d Rather Be Rejected
The best termination of a chat I’ve ever received was this:
“Hi Ringo, I think we’ve been chatting too much online. Let’s stop to prevent any misconception on where this is going.”
Best rejection ever.
No ghosting, and no need to move them into the metaphorical trash can. Rejection is much better than outright ghosting as it is honest, it shows solid character, and is much more respectful.
In an application for the timetabler role at my former place of employment, I get rejected from it – but at least they sent it to me in writing and I got feedback on why I did not get the job: “We believe your skills are better suited for …” – at least I know how to improve, where to go, and they provided direction.
When being left on read, there’s zero data, zero feedback – which immediately just zeros all metrics I use to evaluate the other person: Zero personality, zero respect, zero time, zero value, nothing to learn from them. Thank you, next.
Sigmund Freud says that everything we do springs from two motives: the sex urge and the desire to be great.
If we assume this to be true, then all our interactions and their intentions would come back to these categories – and they need not be mutually exclusive. Wanting to earn money, live a good life of security, have powerful connections – that’s all a desire to be great.
Christians are told to reflect that desire to be great to be a desire to make God great. I believe that is true, but in our sinful nature it’s so much easier to take that glory for ourselves, so in a way, Sigmund Freud’s claim still stands true. Even the purest saint needs to make a conscious choice to turn all praise to God.
So if my interactions are not meeting these needs for someone else, then that just means that I’m not fulfilling the two motives for them to continue the conversation: I’m just not sexy enough, and I’m not going to bring enough greatness.
Not being sexy enough? This thought process has proven very dangerous (and is not great for mental health) as Incels basically justify their existence on this mentality. I’m completely comfortable in my own skin, but if someone decides that being worthy of their time is based on being good looking – then they’re not worth knowing anyway just based on their shitty values.
Not being great enough? Maybe I don’t have enough money, maybe I don’t have the influence, maybe I don’t have the interesting knowledge for another to learn from, maybe I’m not funny enough. But who cares right?
I believe that something is always given and received in any interaction – be it material goods, food, an emotional experience, new opportunities, knowledge, fun, etc – Being ignored just means the other person thinks they will not receive anything of great value.
I know my worth though.
So, it’s best to move on and surround myself with people who do appreciate my worth rather than stress out over people who don’t. Forgive them for it and move on.
How To Learn From This
So in reflecting how I feel about this, I want to make it my goal to not leave anyone on ‘read’. I don’t want anyone to think of me as I do about those who do this. I don’t want to be judged as someone who doesn’t value the friendship (unless I actually don’t). Remember, no response is a response – and it’s the worst one.
It’s about having good communication. It’s about being honest. It’s about being a decent person.
If you read this, then I implore that you reflect on the way you may be treating someone else if you’re leaving them on read. It should not be normal behaviour – it reflects more about your shitty character if you do it regularly. If you have been the receiving end of being left on read, you’ll understand how I feel and I hope you’re able to also just move on from it.
That being said, I do have boundaries. There was a time when someone kept pestering me to do something for them when I already said I don’t want to. I was super uncomfortable with the demanding way they were messaging. They kept asking the same question until I eventually blocked them, and they sent me a text message later: “F**k you for blocking me on fb, you sh!t c!@t”.
This person’s resentment and anger towards me was not unfounded, but I don’t need that shit in my life.
Forgive, forget and move on.