Defence Against the Dark Arts

Aka, you can just call me ‘Miss Manners’.

I’ve been planning this blog post for a while, because the problem I’m describing has been particularly rife recently. Or perhaps I’ve just reached the end of my tether with it. There’s something about this particular issue that really gets under my skin. Now, I’m not one to generally write complain-y, miserable posts, and this isn’t really going to be one of those. I’m going to tell you about my issue, which might be your issue too, and then I’m going to suggest a couple of ways of dealing with it.

My issue is one that should be so simple to remedy, and yet it appears to be getting worse and worse, and it’s this: people not replying. I’m talking about everything here; texts, emails, phone calls, Twitter, Facebook. And when I say ‘not replying’, I don’t mean Tweeting some overwrought celebrity with 5 zillion followers who quite obviously doesn’t have the time – I’m talking about friends. And just to clarify further, I don’t class ‘not replying’ as someone who takes a day or so to reply, and then says ‘sorry’: that, in my eyes, is fine. We’re all busy people. Egocentric as I am (I’m not really), I don’t expect my friends to be sitting around just in case I text them, so they can reply straight away.

To take the time and effort to call somebody, or even say something on a social networking site, takes some percentage of thought on your part. I think it’s exceptionally rude when that isn’t reciprocated. Why is it, in an age where it’s never been easier to talk to people, we can’t really communicate with them properly? Perhaps because there are so many different ways of getting in touch, we don’t think we have to make any particular effort? Perhaps we’re too comfortable with the knowledge that we can always get in touch with people? We know that we’ll always get a second chance at communication?

I say ‘we’ because I’m sure I’ve done this. Looked at my phone, and gone ‘I’ll answer later’, and then completely forgotten. And ok, that’s sort of alright if you do it once or twice then apologise, but it’s not really. Why didn’t I just reply straight away? Let’s face it, chaps, it only takes a few seconds to send a text, doesn’t it? By not sending one, what are we saying? ‘Yes, I know we’ve been friends for years, I’ve cried on your shoulder, we’ve danced all night, we’ve laughed our heads off at terrible films, but ultimately I can’t spare half a minute on you right now, because I can’t be bothered.’

I’ve worked hard to not be that person, and to always try and reply to things as I receive them. If I don’t, it’s because I’m somewhere I can’t reply, like work. Or deep sea diving. And I have friends who have certain demanding schedules which means they won’t reply until a certain time, and that is all fine, because I take that into account. But the more I’ve reformed myself and seen how easy it is just to keep on top of things, the more irate I’ve become at people who don’t extend me that same courtesy. There aren’t many – after all, I wouldn’t call them friends if they systematically refused to talk to me, that would make me insane – but the few who do it are enough to put me in a bad mood all day.

I think it’s rude, careless and unpleasant to not reply. After all, who do you think you are, Madonna? Not replying is saying ‘my time is more precious than yours’, or even worse ‘you just aren’t worthy of a response from me’. I’ve been long plagued by one particular offender, who has always exhibited the trait. Fine to reply when it’s convenient for them, but they’d have long periods of just ignoring my attempts at communication. That isn’t normal behaviour. I have some of the most wonderful, kind, thoughtful and generous friends, so why would I want to pollute my social pool with people who deem me not important enough to reply to? I’ve talked to a lot of people lately who’ve experienced the same thing. I think most of us have had it at some point (in the same way that most of us have done it ourselves.) I’ve reached my tolerance limit with it. Like I said, I have enough decent and charming friends to not worry about losing the rare few who aren’t so delightful.

So that’s the rant. But what can you do about it? I’d say there are two prongs of attack:

  1. Be a good replier yourself. Be considerate. Apologise if you are replying after a few days. Remember that just because you see someone’s name on Facebook every day doesn’t mean you’re in direct contact with them every day. The problem with social media is that you feel immersed in the lives of others, even if you’re not actually talking to them. So talk! Hear the news from their mouths, not their feeds!
  2. Implement a ‘strike’ system. If it’s a good friend, I’d say give them three strikes, and then raise it in a jokey but not aggressive way. With any luck, they’re realise they’ve been a bit ropy and apologise, and be a little better in future. If it happens again a few times, have a bit more of a serious conversation. If someone is an acquaintance as opposed to a friend, I’m afraid I’ve started being a bit ruthless now. My opinion is just ‘sack them off’. You know my favourite phrase by now: life’s too short! Don’t waste time on anger, and on people who aren’t worthy of you!

Be decent and hopefully those around you will be decent too. Be an adult and take responsibility of your relationships. Be kind (rewind). I think we should all make 2012 the year when we, as a whole, clamp down on non-repliers. Let’s create a community where we respect each other, and value each other. Where we don’t leave people in the lurch. Where we reply to event invitations and stick to them. Where we keep promises, and keep in touch. That, my friends, is the Promised Land.

Peace out.

Amelia xx

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