Modern Friendship and The Cult of Accessibility

16 May

Are We Still On For Lunch?

Are We Still On For Lunch?

Dear readers, colleagues, coworkers, friends, and family,

I know we’ve all done it — you’ve received a text, an email, a facebook wall post or message — and you’ve ignored it for whatever reason. You’re in the middle of a movie, or out for dinner, or in the middle of a big project at work.

In the age of social media, we’ve basically thrown privacy out the window. Everyone is a little bit too accessible. There are always new invitations or notifications pending: Facebook, Twitter, G+, Instagram, Vine, the list goes on and on as we add and join more social media.

So sometimes I let my notifications pile up and then I clear them off the screen. I don’t even take a peek. Sometimes I’ll even go as far as to turn on the wonderful “Do Not Disturb” function on my iPhone (It really is a great function — if anyone calls more than twice, the call goes through as it may be an emergency).

But then minutes or hours later when I do have some time to go through them, I make sure I get back to anyone who took the time to reach out to me. So here’s where I get to the crux of my post for today: If everyone is making such a big deal about how accessible they are, why do so many people have trouble taking the time to reach back?

I don’t know how many times when I have texted a friend or even *gasp* called them, and I have received no response. It’s frustrating. It sends me into a spiral of anxiety. And I know that like me, you could be in a movie, at work, spending time with your kids, or doing any other number of countless things. But when 24, 36, 72 hours go by and I haven’t heard back from you? Then it’s time to send a follow-up call, email, text, or what-have-you.

I’m sure this has happened to you all as well. After the follow-up contact, you get the “I’m so sorry! I’ve just been sooooo busy!” Cue the eye roll here.

Because we have all made ourselves so accessible with social media, we all should be able to step up and accept accountability for being so accessible. It’s like how McDonald’s advertises that they are now open 24 hours; you would not be a happy camper if you made your way down to the local Mickey D’s and found them to be anything but open 24 hours.

I for one am making the change starting today. I’m taking the leap and turning on my read receipts on my iPhone — a leap which some of my colleagues and friends have already made, whether they started out with BBM or any of the earlier incarnations. When the read receipts were first introduced I found myself questioning a friend as to why they had chosen to opt in to the receipts. She explained it in the following way:

If someone took the time out of their day to text me a “what’s up?” or “I miss you,” I want them to know that their time matters. I want them to know that I got their text and that it matters. If I don’t reply, I feel like I’m telling them that my time matters more than theirs. It doesn’t.

In the age of social media, where you have all of your “friends” in one handy little list, you can easily lose touch with those friends. You figure “I can chat with them at any time, we’re friends on Facebook!” This has been said many times elsewhere, but this is where social media is hurting us. It is in the day to day personal interactions amoung friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, and even strangers.

So if someone reaches out to you today or tomorrow or two years from now. Be accountable. Sometimes all they’ve been wanting to hear is an “I missed you too.”

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