Every time I see the tiny little “Read” underneath a text message I think, “Why? Why on earth would you voluntarily use Apple’s Read Receipts?”
The Read Receipt is this weird feature that alerts those in the conversation when one party has received and processed the message — and, even more cruelly, reveals the exact time at which that happened. The sender is able to calculate the exact number of minutes (or hours or days) that have passed between when the message was sent and when the receiver finally decides to respond.
On some level, I can see how choosing to use them seems like a noble idea, if not a particularly good one. I imagine fans of Read Receipts were also part of their school’s Honor Board or Hall Monitor Society. With the Read Receipt, the old “Oh I missed that text” or “Whoops I thought my response went through last night” goes from an indisputable excuse to something on the level of “The dog ate my homework.” It holds us all accountable for those too-common lapses in communication (intentional or not). But what holds you accountable also holds you prisoner.
The Read Receipt has become the gestapo of smartphone communication: It acts as an etiquette enforcer, making sure we’re all available all of the time. With Read Receipts, the only socially acceptable response time is “Now,” and if an ellipsis bubble meant to convey typing doesn’t pop up right away, it signals hate, disdain, etc., etc. Read Receipts do not improve the problems of modern communication; instead, as TechCruch points out, they’ve become the latest tool in our mind-fuck arsenal — especially when it comes to dating.
It appears some people — some horrible, sadistic people — are intentionally using Read Receipts as an obvious slight, either to express disinterest or gain the upper hand. It becomes a total power play. It sends the message “I’ve seen your attempts at communication, but for whatever reason, I don’t feel the need to respond to you. Now go ahead and wonder what that reason is.” On a good day, you’ll be able to convince yourself they’ve been stunned into silence by your awesome wit. But what’s more realistic is the horrible countdown: One hour means they probably don’t like you, 2 to 6 mean they think you’re ugly, 8 to 12 mean they absolutely hate you, and 24 hours mean they’ve gotten married and left you to die alone.
Take this example from my own horrific experiences: I sent a text to a guy I’d been seeing asking if he wanted to grab a drink. He read it about ten minutes after I sent it and chose not to respond until the following morning. He wrote, “Oh I’m sorry. I was super busy last night.”
Here is the classic “slow fade” except worse, because the intent is far more obvious and the victim bears witness to the decision-making process. As TechCrunch puts it, “Read Receipts don’t leave much room for a comforting imagination.” Sure, at least I didn’t have to endure a prolonged text-avoidance dance with this guy, but I’m still mad that Read Receipts have robbed me of my right to convince myself that the only reason he didn’t respond was that he’d suffered a horrifically painful freak accident.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’ll take my delusional rationalizations over the harsh, cold knowledge that comes with a Read Receipt. Luckily, everyone has the option to turn them off, and we all should exercise that right, immediately.