Why you should turn off your read receipts, according to dating experts

It's time to stop getting your kicks from blue ticks

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 20 March 2018 10:37 GMT
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Once upon a time, arranging a date was as simple as sending a text message and waiting for a response - then everything got a bit Black Mirror.

Thanks to the arrival of read receipts, available on almost every social media platform, it’s never been easier to spend hours dissecting the intricacies of your partner’s communication habits.

From being able to track their activity via the ominous "last seen" feature on WhatsApp and Instagram to knowing whether they’ve read your last message on everything in between, the transparency of today's digital communication might seem like a blessing and a curse, but it’s mostly the latter.

It doesn’t take a Freudian analysis to realise that pining after every blue tick and yelping out every time you see your beloved is “online” (no, they can’t see you) is a fairly unhealthy mindset to have when you’re dating someone.

Hence why dating psychologist Madeleine Mason recommends turning read receipts off altogether.

“If you have a tendency to overthink things and get mini panics over seeing someone having read your message and not replying, then I would suggest turning the function off completely,” she told The Independent.

While she explains that the non-reply or delayed reply is not necessarily psychologically damaging in and of itself, it can foster unhelpful feelings of rejection.

“It can also trigger a psychological response (i.e. panic) that has resulted from psychological damage at an earlier point in life,” she added.

While there are obvious reasons for delayed responses - travelling, being with friends, working - the immediacy with which we’re able to communicate digitally naturally elicits expectations of a speedy exchange.

Therefore, when someone takes a little longer to reply than we might hope, it can generate a plethora of anxieties which are only exacerbated by read receipts.

For example, when you see that a partner hasn't opened your message on a platform but has been active elsewhere, it explicitly vindicates feelings of being ignored, which are easier for some to swallow than others.

"It's a feeling that's ubiquitous across social media messaging," explains 23-year-old Rose*.

"If you've been waiting for a guy to reply to a direct message on Instagram for three days and can see they've been actively posting pictures the entire time, it's inevitably going to make you wonder why they're choosing to consciously ignore you, particularly as they'll know you can see their posts. Their delayed response subsequently feels intentional, like they're playing a game. I think it's quite passive aggressive."

Not to mention the fact that this way of communication - or lack thereof - inherently endorses the concept of “playing it cool”, which is why 32-year-old Tim* decided to turn his read receipts off on all platforms.

"I had no interest in trying to game someone by letting them see I'd read their message and chosen not to respond," he told The Independent.

"Then, once I got into a relationship, I decided to leave them off for a different reason - I can't handle the pressure of someone expecting a response immediately as soon as I've seen their message, and wondering if something is wrong if I don't reply straight away."

According to dating coach James Preece, read receipts can give rise to a number of problems in relationships because they amplify mismatches in communication preferences.

“One person might assume that by purposefully not replying, you are hiding something or keeping secrets," he told The Independent.

"The more you do it then the worse it will get; they can't understand why you aren't making them a priority by replying.”

However, Mason adds that a person's feelings towards read receipts are highly dependent on the individual, who may be more vulnerable to emotional distress if they have self-esteem issues or a lack of confidence in the relationship. If neither of these things are a problem, read receipts should be irrelevant, she said.

For 25-year-old Bea*, read receipts provide an essential transparency to her dating communications.

“It really annoys me when guys turn their read receipts off on WhatsApp,” she told The Independent.

“It makes it seem like someone is playing a game and trying to hide things from you. I'm not going to get anxious because you've seen my message and haven't replied yet.

“I know that more often than not we read a message and don't have time to reply straight away. So why turn off read receipts? It makes no sense to me."

So, to turn them off or keep them on?

Choose at your own peril: the course of true love never did run smooth, with or without a blue tick.

*Names have been changed.

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