Are Read Receipts Destroying Relationships?

“I love you.”

*seen 7:47 P.M.*

Communication has always been a tricky puzzle, and the read receipt hasn’t made it any easier to solve.

A read receipt is a special indicator in IM conversations of both the time and date that the receiver opened the sender’s message, such as “seen 7:47 P.M.” or “read at 5:45 P.M.” Now, people can tell exactly when they’re being acknowledged or ignored. To my understanding, you can find read receipts in Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and iMessage, although these and other applications may give you the option to disable them.

Read receipts almost always inconvenience at least one participating party because if you open the message, then you’re forced to respond to it immediately, and you become locked into a conversation that has no end in sight. Alternatively, if you wait to open the message, then the other person will think that you’re just ignoring them. And while you can opt to use the infamous, “Sorry, I didn’t have my phone on me” excuse, chances are it’s not going to work because honestly, who isn’t carrying their phone 24/7?

Call me “behind the times,” a bitter old man, or whatever, but I’m not a strong believer in text messaging being the primary conversational medium. If anything, it intrudes on the fluid and sloppy yet imperfectly beautiful nature of authentic human communication, and fosters an unhealthy dependence on our comfort zones. Its primary purpose should be to convey vital information, not spend hours exchanging meaningless, lazy, 3 word sentences that do little to progress relationships in the real world and ultimately reduce social competence.

I also don’t have the stamina or retention span (not ATTENTION span) to be effective at text messaging. Read receipts only expose just how ineffective that I can be at it. While texting, I might run into what are perceived breaks in the conversation with you, and thus I might forget to respond, fall asleep, or stop responding altogether. Yet how am I supposed to know what constitutes a break in the conversation when I am unable to evaluate your body language or tone of voice? If the read receipt shows that I’ve opened your latest message at “6:50 P.M.” and I haven’t responded to it ever since, then it might appear as though I’ve lost interest in talking to you, when in actuality I thought we both had nothing more to say. But it doesn’t always come across that way. For that reason, I’m starting to worry that the mere knowledge our most recent messages were opened is enough to further complicate our relationships by creating the false impression that, by virtue of one or two unacknowledged texts, we do not care about our friends and companions anymore.

Texting sure is nice and convenient, but it often creates stress when there should be none. Think, how many times have you agonized over that one unacknowledged message that was opened over three hours ago? How many times have you convinced yourself that your boyfriend or girlfriend has lost interest simply because they haven’t responded to you since last night?

It used to be that the best way to tell you were being ignored was when you called and left a voicemail for a friend, companion, or potential employer, and they never called you back. However, you had no way of knowing that the other person ever received your voicemail—you just had to take it at face value and assume they weren’t interested. Today, it’s more so that you know the other person isn’t interested (because the read receipt tells you exactly when your last message was opened), they just couldn’t make it any less painfully obvious.

The read receipt is another classic example of how technology, when abused, doesn’t enhance communication, but rather obscures it. I hope that someday, we can get into the habit of turning the phones off and opening up to each other the old fashion way.

6 Tips for Writing Good

Don’t worry fellow reader, the title is mistaken on purpose. Instead, it should be, “6 Tips for Good Writing,” because the adjective “good” cannot be preceded by a progressive action. Congratulations, you’re already on the fast track toward becoming a more effective writer.

Oftentimes I cannot fathom why people experience so much trouble with producing a paper. Then I remember that, unlike mathematics and the sciences, writing comes more naturally to me than it does to others. Therefore, I have devised 6 tips that I believe, when applied to your writing, can increase its quality as well as its overall favorability. So let’s begin!

Tip 1: Always speak TO your audience, and never AT your audience.

I was unfriended by a lot of people on Facebook in response to the constant rants I posted. I attempted to justify these unfriendings by (quite euphemistically) pointing out that my rants weren’t even rants, they were discussions. This opened my mind up to the hard truth that people will never listen to you if they feel like they’re being “talked at,” so to speak. Rather, they would prefer to have a larger role in the conversation. For this reason, you should always adjust your tone in such a way that it doesn’t sound arrogant or worse, abrasive. State facts and arguments as is without attaching your opinions to them, discounting any preconceived biases that might distort your tone-of-voice.

Tip 2: Install transition words and phrases.

Transitional words and phrases are incredibly useful because they connect disparate ideas to each other and generally link up paragraphs, creating a special sense of cohesiveness. They can be used to convey similarity, contrast, agreement, and my personal favorite, emphasis. SmartWords.org provides up to 200 acceptable transitions that are commonly employed in many articles and essays.  But also don’t overuse them! It’s annoying when every other sentence begins with a “For example,” or a “For instance,” so use them in moderation.

Tip 3: Write until the point is made.

Have I ever told you that I hate word counts? They’re de-motivational and restrict creativity. If a professor or teacher ever tells you that your paper “must” be an X amount of words, don’t listen to them. Whether or not your paper is 100, 250, or 1,000 words in length, the prescribed word count shouldn’t matter so long as you proved your argument soundly and effectively. Therefore, write every word you need to until the point gets struck. Anything more will leave your readers feeling like you’re just biding time for the sake of it, and anything less will leave them feeling like your work is underprepared.

 Tip 4: Utilize a thesaurus.

At the end of the day, the heart of good writing is the vocabulary you choose. I recommend utilizing a thesaurus for two reasons. One reason is that if you switch out words with more sophisticated variants of themselves, your teachers and professors will grade your papers less harshly. I’m not joking—an advanced vocabulary literally creates the impression of an intelligent and hardworking student, and as such teachers will be more apt to grade your work with a little mercy.

The second reason is that frequent usage of a thesaurus strengthens your vocabulary overall. You begin to speak to your friends, family members, and coworkers with greater eloquence, while your writing takes on profound depth and substance. And plus, who doesn’t like using a few big words here and there to sound smart?

However, be very careful not to overdo this one. You might use so many “big” words that people no longer know what you’re talking about. In addition, you run the risk of using certain words awkwardly or out of context, so always check the dictionary beforehand.

Tip 5: Throw in some adverbs.

Adverbs are wonderful not only because they modify the meanings of adjectives and verbs, but because they help “buff up” your sentences, helping to express thoughts that would otherwise be near impossible to put into words. Take the adverbial version of, let’s say “extraordinary,” and you can pair it up with just about every adjective in the English dictionary and still make a great deal of sense (e.g., extraordinarily smart, extraordinarily stupid, etc.). In this manner, adverbs don’t just modify meaning, they supercharge meaning!

Tip 6: “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”

This was a tip my statistics professor shared with my class last summer, and it holds true across all skills you aim to perfect. Don’t practice until you stop making mistakes, but rather practice until the very prospect of making mistakes is incogitable. Master the mechanics of effective writing in the same way that a pilot masters the mechanics of flying a plane, and you don’t even need to worry about screwing up anymore. It all just comes naturally to you, whether you want it to or not.

And that’s it. 6 tips for more effective writing. Do you think there’s some room for improvement, or are you a modern day Shakespeare?