Opinion: ‘If it were up to me, those read receipts would be gone’

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(Olivia McLeod/Ryersonian Staff)

If you’re on Facebook Messenger or Apple’s iMessage, you’ve dealt with read receipts. They’re the notification that pops up below a message letting you know that the person you’re communicating with has opened and read what you’ve sent them.

But why does this function even exist?

The entire purpose of a messaging system is to allow for leisure in the communication process. You see a message, you wait until an appropriate time during your day to reply, and then you reply. If those communicating wanted a sense of immediacy, they would’ve called each other, right?

Now, some software does give you the option to turn read receipts off, while others don’t. And you can’t forget the three little dots that always appear as someone’s typing. They’re perfect for building suspense as you eagerly await the reply of your crush, but bad if your crush can’t think of what to say and keeps deleting what was typed.

The read receipt has been around for a while, becoming a feature first on BlackBerry Messenger since 2005, then iMessage in 2011comma and finally on Facebook in 2012. The fact that it hasn’t faded into oblivion by now can be attributed to our demand for information at faster and faster rates.

But that doesn’t make it any less confusing to me. If a message is opened without a read receipt and replied to after several hours, you likely just assume the person you messaged was busy. Not a big deal. However, all read receipts really do is give you anxiety from the moment your message has been opened. You can see the timestamp “Read 1:30 p.m.,” and you wonder why you’re being ignored if a response isn’t immediate.

It’s really just a matter of preference, I suppose. But if it were up to me, those read receipts would be gone. There’s no need for another thing in this world to induce unnecessary anxiety. Let’s bring it back to urgency: if it can wait, text. If not, call me maybe.

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