It’s a hackneyed gripe, and the last thing I want is to sound embittered, but I swear to god, I’ll shoot up a CVS the next time I get an enthusiastic promise from someone about something only to be followed down the road by a non-response response.
It happens more and more frequently, and this ain’t about us having thin skin: after multiple seemingly engaging interactions, ones in which plans are discussed, be it personal or business, we end up hearing zilch.
Did they not hear the message? Did the email end up in junk? Are they manic depressive schizoids who say yes, awesome, great! when they really mean, fuck off, you suck, I’m not interested? I mean, the NSA’s reading my texts. Why aren’t they?
Our lives are more fragmented than ever: our attention pulled in so many directions, and though we claim to be more and more linked in, it’s clear that this new modality is having some serious side effects.
We’ve his a point in life where every disaster, every shooting and hurricane, every Arab uprising or political sex scandal, is collectively absorbed by a good part of the world instantaneously.
Our brains may one day evolve to the point where we can process all this blather, but at present it’s causing us all some major glitches, like fatigue and boredom and over commitment and cynicism and error riddled multitasking, and worst of all, a total loss of our sense of wonder. There’s just no time for that anymore. Wonderment comes with reflection, but how can you do that in this 24 hour information blitzkrieg?
What irks me most is the new dearth of consideration. It forces you to become cynical out of a sense of self-preservation– so you don’t get our hopes up that something you’d love to see happen actually comes to fruition through a new connection. Why, with all of this “access”, is communication between people devolving so quickly?
Two recent non-response responses were comical in scale. One was with a company with whom I worked for nine months. We spoke several times a week. Met multiple times. Made money together. The project did not end up breaking global return records, but no one was shocked about it. Over all, it was a well-executed partnership. Months later, an opportunity arose, and a call was placed to share the news, and moreso, the wealth. No call back. Maybe they did not get the message. I have about 350 emails from these people. Let me shoot them an email or four over the next few weeks.
Radio silence……………… Really? …..Wait, wait… Did I miss a cue? Did I insult someone’s fat assed wife or alcoholic father or slutty girlfriend? I couldn’t put my finger on any such faux pas. So WTF? …..Nothing?? For whatever reason, after whatever history we had, these people couldn’t bother to hit the reply button and say, hey, no thanks, or not right now, or we’ve all had our tongues cut out over here.
The same thing happened with a lady not long ago. 6 dates with a woman, set up through a close mutual friend, where the attraction was palpable. Things were said, plans were made, DNA exchanged, connections forged in the coils of our gray matter. It was a tad on the frightening side, in all honestly, and perhaps that had something to do with the sudden, clearly deliberate non-response to any attempt to communicate.
The last communique I received was a gushing morning email about the exciting night before. How she hadn’t felt so giddy since high school. And then…. nada…. At first I thought her phone died. Her reply-texts had been instantaneous. But after unreturned calls, my thoughts turned dark. Perhaps she was tied to a chair in a basement with electrical tape over her mouth. Her abductors had smashed her cell phone into pieces. I would have to find and rescue her.
After not getting any ransom calls, my thoughts turned to death. Surely, she had been suddenly dragged into the gears of a cross-continental bus and scraped across the country… or hopefully worse.
Imagine my disappointment when I found out she was alive and well: her phone firing on all bars. The call came from the mutual friend who set us up. I had begged her to find out what had happened for me.
The girl was not calling back. It was intentional, and I had to find a place for that in my newly bitch-slapped reality. Was her boyfriend back in the picture? Had I been used? Did some deeply twisted part of her say all those things knowing she was going to follow up with silence? Or maybe she was just schizophrenic and I could date the half of her that I know really dug me?
The most fundamental of social intelligence tells us to avoid making enemies. Why sew seeds of resentment when a moment of simple communication can neutralize any future conflict? Why send anyone into the questioning conundrum of “wait, what happened?” when the 6 seconds it takes to reach out can put all doubts to rest. Why burn the bridge with the close mutual friend who set us up? When did saying no thank you become so damn difficult?
Why, with the accessibility of all the handheld devices we have up our collective asses, are we unable to communicate the slightest bit better? Does all this facility have some adverse/inverse affect like making us lazier or more covetous of privacy?
I know, I know, your “slammed” at work, things are “crazy busy” and you’re “in the weeds”. Everyone is so ready to spin how busy they are. But it’s bullshit. I’m not asking you to sit down at a desk, dip a quill into some ink, compose your thoughts, fold the parchment into an envelope, seal it with wax and walk it to a post office. I’m asking you to take ten seconds, raise that index finger up, and click reply.
But the moment “relationships” became virtual, the moment that being “friends” with someone could be achieved with a click, was the moment they could be deleted just as easily. Understandably, I can’t find a single human being who hasn’t been at the other end of this phenomenon. I’ve heard all kinds of time periods for the hurt people feel at not getting a basic response– 2 months, 2 weeks, 2 hours—the reaction is always the same—how could they not even BOTHER.
Free minutes, unlimited SMS, FB, Twitter, Gmail: how difficult is it, really, to tie up loose ends? How much discomfort are you really facing by replying rather than not? It’s not like bumping into me at a Wholefoods, or on the 6 train, or at the Stereolab show, where I can throw a beer in your fat face, or kick you in the balls, or hurl epithets at your family.
The perplexing thing is how it ultimately takes more effort not to respond. Things drag it out longer. You get more texts and calls and emails wondering where you are, and what happened. Negative vibes increase. Your karma begins to rot.
Is it a symptom of the dreaded post-modern condition that all this technology actually sets us back? Are we caring less cause we’re so overloaded? Or is it about a desperate need for status in a sea of mutuality? I don’t have to bother responding to you, so I won’t… All this connectivity is really the illusion of connection, the illusion of community. It’s the difference between describing a great meal to a friend and actually having one with them. Only one will leave you satisfied. And that’s what suffers when we can’t be bothered to bother. Sincere connection is worth more than status, more than money. How deeply did we connect with each other is what builds cultures.