“I texted her forty minutes ago. Why is she ignoring me?”

“Something is seriously wrong with this friendship. I sent that email two days ago, and no response.”

Isn’t Internet communication great? You can click a button, and the other person gets your message — whether it be a few sentences, one emoji, or several pages — right away. And when the other person replies, we get their response immediately. Speak, answer, speak answer — it’s just like having a face-to-face conversation.

Except, it’s not.

If you were having an in-person talk with a friend, and your friend just stopped responding all of a sudden and sat there in silence looking at you, you’d have a pretty good clue that something significant had happened with the conversation, or maybe with your friend’s attention or even health. 

But in a text exchange, email thread or chat window, we can’t see what’s happening with and around the other person. We don’t know what’s unfolding in their lives that minute, that hour, that day, that might get in the way of an immediate response. They might have a family crisis, or an important report to finish, or they might have been in an all-day meeting. They might be separated from any online access. There’s no way for us to know for sure.

Online messages can sometimes offer us an immediate response. Be careful of expecting one. 

There’s another element in play in the timing of online interactions. Answer this for me: How long is a reasonable amount of time in which to answer a text? An email? A friend request?

Someone else will have different opinions about reasonable response times.

You feel that the other person has taken too long, so there must be something wrong. And it’s possible that there is. But they might merely have a different sense of how much time can reasonably pass before a reply.

Try holding off on assuming that you’re being snubbed, or that there’s a crisis, because you’re still waiting for a reply, even if it seems too long for you. It will reduce the anxiety or outrage.