This Is Why You're So Bad At Texting Back During Lockdown
In a year when the world was sent to its room and spring seemed to happen in slow-motion, you'd think we'd have time to answer the messages clogging our phones.
After all, lockdown has seen us nail Zoom conferences and witness the rise and fall of apps like Houseparty.
2020 is the year when we're more motivated to communicate through our tech than ever before, right?
Well, it's more complicated than that.
In fact, the pressure to be accessible though our phones all the time can have the opposite effect and cause us to withdraw, leading to neglected messages slowly filling WhatsApp.
Throw in additional pressures caused by lockdown (heightened stress, fatigue, lifestyle changes) and we not only have a recipe for digital burnout but the feelings of guilt that go with it, too.
If you're experiencing this problem, you're not alone.
New York Times bestselling author Jon Acuff summed up the feeling perfectly in a tweet that became a meme back in April.
He wrote: "Is there an emoji for, "I saw your text but didn't know how to perfectly respond to it so I waited until I knew exactly what to say but it's been three weeks so now I just feel microbursts of shame every time I see your name in the elephant graveyard of messages on my phone?"
Is there an emoji for, "I saw your text but didn't know how to perfectly respond to it so I waited until I knew exactly what to say but it's been three weeks so now I just feel microbursts of shame every time I see your name in the elephant graveyard of messages on my phone?"
- Jon Acuff (@JonAcuff) April 22, 2020
"Microbursts of shame"? "Elephant graveyard of messages"? Seriously, Jon, you see straight through us.
So, how can we avoid tech burnout in lockdown?
Leading life coach Carole Ann Rice explains that time management is key.
She says: "We have to get over the assumption that we're always available just because we have a phone.
"Before mobile phones, there were periods of the day where we weren't contactable (out at the shops, enjoying a family day) and we just had to deal with it.
"But nowadays, mobile phones have altered the norms of society which can certainly add pressure and stress to your life."
The sense of being more visible to our friends through social apps is a key factor in digital burnout, says Carole.
During lockdown, the need for time out from our phones is especially important, as we may not have the headspace for certain conversations.
"The other issue is that people can actually see when you're on WhatsApp or Instagram, which can create paranoia (why aren't they answering me?), irritation and frustration (why won't they get back to me quickly?)," says the life coach.
"This is a big issue for most, especially now during lockdown where we might not be in the right frame of mind to have conversations with certain people," she adds.
There's also the basic problem that many of us simply don't have much news to tell our friends at the moment.
Life and business strategist Michael Cloonan says, "A reason people might be worse at replying to messages is that they may have nothing new to talk about - the conversations tend to be the same with everyone, so replying may easily be overlooked by individuals."
Add in heightened anxiety, and feelings of guilt become far more likely.
"Anxiety can be high during this time which makes talking to people (even through messages) very difficult," says Michael.
"This can create guilt though, as we tend to put ourselves in the other persons shoes and question how that made them feel. Do they feel upset I didn't reply? Maybe they were reaching out because they felt down? Was it selfish of me to ignore them?
"Plenty of questions can flood our brain which can ultimately make our anxiety worse as we are worried the other person may question our relationship whether it be friends, family or a partner."
Phew, is anyone else very relieved it's not just them experiencing WhatsApp guilt?
Luckily, Michael and Carole have put together their top tips for avoiding tech burnout:
1. Carole: In order to not build up the guilt, try to action something as soon as you can, even if it's just a temporary thing (saying sorry - busy right now but will get back to you later). This will give you some grace, while ignoring these messages and procrastinating (for whatever reason) will only make the situation worse for both parties.
2. Carole: If you can't get back to someone right away, just remember that we're all in this together, everyone's lives are busy and stressful. Try to make amends and send a simple apology (sorry I was having a bad day!) which will help alleviate those feelings of guilt."
3. Michael: A huge part of being able to manage a relationship properly and switch off is to manage your time correctly. Ask yourself "is anyone being impacted by my behaviour? Am I neglecting certain things/people? If you find yourself answering yes to these questions, find out how you can change.
4. Michael: A great way to improve your time online is to set allocated times in which we don't have our phones around us. Give yourself a time every evening where you put your phones aside and give undivided time to our partner/children and talk or watch a movie together.
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