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Left "Unread"

Person in hoodie reading mobile phone

Texting...its constant. No longer do we pick up the phone and either get a busy signal or a machine. With texting, communicating is literally at the tips of our fingers. Instant gratification with communication comes with the expectation that response time should be as easy as sending a text. We sit, stare at the screen, and wait for those three little dots to appear that show someone is sending us a response. Often, people use a setting that shows whether or not a message has been read.

It's the "left unread" that has become a conversation in therapy. Especially with adolescents, the idea of being left unread is heart breaking. "Why aren't they opening up my text? I see they are on- line, so I know they see it". "I thought we were having a good conversation and then all of a sudden they stopped opening my texts". "Its been days I have been left unread, I have gone back and forth through our conversation and I don't know what I said that made them stop talking to me".

How do we teach appropriate distance within this context? With a great majority of connection coming through texts, how do we educate kids and adolescence on appropriate boundaries and reality of busy lives? Back when I was in high school, it could take days for a friend to return a phone call. There wasn't the intense expectation of instant gratification. Lives are busy, and down time is filled with the easy access of texting. It's important to have the constant conversations with our children that it isn't a testament of friendship to be left unread, its more often someone gets called away and may leave their app or computer open, or someone got focused into what they were doing real time. The most important part of managing the "left unread" challenges is instilling confidence in ones character. If you didn't do anything to upset someone, don't look for a problem that doesn't exist and understand life goes beyond the three dots.


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