Just Because I *Can* Answer You RN, Doesn’t Mean I Have to.

Let’s talk about textual expectations in the time of quarantine.

The other day, round about the time the national lockdown began, I posted a story on Instagram: Shout out to peeps who still brazenly take ages to answer texts even tho we *know* you’re not fcking doing anything rn 😂.

It was a joke because, see, I AM ONE OF THEM. And I have a bone to pick with the guilt I am accruing due to an endless stream of texts, Houseparty invites, and video call requests. I’m running out of new reasons for not replying (“I forgot my phone at home” and “I was out” don’t work anymore). I fear people are catching on. And, frankly, I’m over it.


Textual Expectations

Most of us probably have a less than perfect reply track-record (what is the generally accepted ETA of a responding text anyway?*). Because, you know, general, everyday life means you can’t always answer within 5 minutes.

But now that ‘general, everyday life’ has morphed into a temporary, weird and time-warped version of its previous self, you might be wondering why your texts these days are taking even longer to be replied to. Or, if you’re like, me: why people think they have a right to monopolize your virtual screentime rn and/or have run out of excuses for not responding in a timely fashion.


Here is a sentiment that can set us all free of textual expectations in the time of quarantine: just because you can respond, doesn’t mean you want or have to.

Woulda, Coulda, Don’t Wanna

Everyone is navigating this time in a way that suits them. For many, work has paused and it’s easy to assume that we’re all just staring at the ceiling and eating junk food in the sweatpants we’ve been wearing for 3 days straight (don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean). But that’s not the case (mostly).

“Spending too much time online … is linked to greater feelings of social isolation”

Another thing is, just because we can spend more time online doesn’t mean we are. The sudden availability of time to scroll has certainly increased but, otherwise, non-text-happy people are still just that. Put it down to a dislike of small talk, a preference for real-life interactions, a tendency to procrastinate, laziness, a disregard for textual etiquette, or a penchant for avoidance… Either way: we still don’t like texting unless we really, really have to.

Rules of Engagement

On the opposite end of the spectrum, text-happy people become even more prone to overconsumption and tired thumbs. The need to look at something that’s not pixelated and use our hands for something instead of scrolling sometimes outweighs answering your video call.


In other words: We’re putting boundaries on our screens for our sanity. And with good reason. Spending too much time online can aggravate existing mental health conditions and is linked to greater feelings of social isolation (which is pretty fucking self-defeating, I reckon). Drowning in memes rn may work for you but, for some, it’s not their coping mechanism du jour.

“Smartphones .. are our life-lines of (virtual) human connection.”

For others, the demand for our screentime has gone up as work has gone online, too. Our otherwise friends-and-family-specific device now includes a work WhatsApp group. And, after spending 9 to 5 pm in a warp of pixels, we might want to take a break – not call 3 people back ASAP.

A Dose of Reality

Many people are even logging off entirely for days (or hours that feel like days) on end. Why? Because all that connects us is the internet and, byway, the smartphones that we find glued to our hands even more than before. They are our life-lines of (virtual) human connection. And they are giving us a fucking headache.

Sometimes we need a break from our information IV drips feeding us news, stats, statuses, messages from our grandmas to the person that ghosted us last year, and feeds full of photos and videos. At a time when all one can talk about, think about and read about is something we’re already overly aware of, we just want to not read about it for a little while (and that’s fucking OKAY). Just let your close peeps know if you’ll be taking extended time offline (i.e.: just because we hate texting, doesn’t mean we’re assholes).


The bottom line is: not everyone’s lockdown schedule, battery life, data plan, capacity to devour information and current coping mechanism is the same as yours.

So be patient, I’ll get back to you by tomorrow. If I don’t, read this sentence again.

P.S.: While you wait for a response try these vintage/totally plausible/kinda out there hobbies: WHAT IS A ‘HOBBY’?

* a) 24 hours

b) 1 hour

c) Now now

d) All of the above

A: D.

Feature Image: Zoya Pon