Man on phone

Why do we get Stressed About Replying Quickly?

I found this really interesting take on our “always-connected” culture this week in the Atlantic.

What If We Just Stopped Being So Available? – Today’s norms of responsiveness are ridiculous. We shouldn’t apologize for failing to meet them.

My first thought, obviously, was about the workplace and the culture we have created there that rewards being “always-on” but I think so much of this pressure permeates beyond work. As technology has become commonplace we all live with this pressure and this expectation. Think about it, how many times in a given week are you apologizing to friends and family because you couldn’t get back to them right away?

I do it all the time.

Heck, I’ve gotten text messages while having lunch or dinner with a friend, catching up with someone I haven’t gotten to see much for the last couple of years, and then apologized for doing that and being unavailable. Why? That makes no sense but we live in a culture where being connected to technology all the time also means that we should be responsive all the time. Or at least we feel like we should. Frankly, that’s a lot of pressure. It doesn’t allow us to focus for too long on any one thing, because there will always be another message, another tweet reply, or another request to respond to. They don’t end. But that doesn’t mean we have to feel the pressure to respond right away. We can choose to do something else. We can choose to focus on the moment at hand knowing that we will get to those when it’s our time to get to those as opposed to always feeling the pressure to respond. It’s healthier for us to do that.

It’s also healthier for all of us to expect that is what other people will do as well. Your friends who don’t text back right away? They may be doing something important at that moment, spending time with family, kids, or taking care of themselves. There is nothing wrong with that.

Worse yet, how many times have you taken to Twitter or Facebook, let alone a blog like this one, and apologized for “being quiet”?

Again, we see it all of the time.

Those social media feeds you follow that seem to not be posting much? Maybe they are going through a busy time in their day job or dealing with some private issues they aren’t ready to talk about. Maybe they just need a break.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of that. It’s healthy. So yes, we all have technology that connects us to the world with us all of the time. That’s no reason to ignore everything else though. We should stop with these expectations, it’s not healthy to be this stressed by the expectations of technology.

I encourage you to read the whole thing, stop apologizing, and tell people who apologize to you that it is unnecessary. It’d do us all some good.

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