Seen, liked, no need to reply

05:04 AM November 27, 2018

Here’s a recurring topic I’ve had with friends about the new culture of no-reply also known as “seen-zoned.”

Does modern etiquette include replying to a Facebook message? How about an emoji or a gif?


These questions extend to other communication platforms on social media such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, Hangouts, and so on.

Technology does have its benefits, but the powers of accessibility and convenience bring with them new lifestyle trends that may not always be everyone’s cup of tea.


Those weighing in for communication skills and courtesy say we need to reply to messages.On the other hand, we have partisans who say it’s no big deal to leave someone seen-zoned.

Admittedly, I was once a hardcore must-reply campaigner. This is mainly because I don’t like the feeling of being left hanging (or being left out). But after thinking this through, I’ve begun to realize how many gray areas exist in this question.

Round 1: Courtesy. Do you think it’s basic courtesy to reply to a message?

Well, it really depends on the type of message. A wedding invitation or an event that needs an RSVP requires a reply.

The hosts need your response to finalize their guest list and to properly plan for an event.

The same goes for other messages that require an answer (e.g., Are we still on this afternoon? Will you make it to the meeting? Were you able to accomplish [action]?).

But how about a simple hello, a smiley or a greeting? How about those chain messages that say “send this to 10 persons or…” and
others of the same sort?


My dad has been sending me this type of messages ever since he discovered FB Messenger. About 80 percent of his messages are pure emoji.

I reply just to indulge him, because I know it’s his way of trying to relate with me.

I guess it all depends on the sender and how important that person is to you. My dad is definitely worth the emoji.

If someone habitually ignores your messages, most probably the person isn’t interested.

If someone persistently tries to contact you, maybe it’s time to say point-blank that you’re not interested.

If the person persists, I call that stalking, which is beyond courtesy.

Round 2: Building relationships. I sometimes feel compelled to thank everyone who sends me birthday greetings, whether through text messages or FB posts.

The truth is, though, I haven’t talked to some of these people for years.

Others would argue that this is exactly the advantage of social media and technology — the ability to reconnect with people and to keep in touch; but some would rebut that digital cannot replace personal conversations.

Again, I would argue that it depends on the context.

Work reasons have prompted my relatives to live in different parts of the world. But because we are all part of a family group chat, we are able to keep ourselves updated with one another. Reunions and visits don’t become awkward, but a continuation.

Writer Herbert Lui enumerated three reasons for not replying to online messages.

First, when you are driving, which is obvious.

Second, when you should be focused at work.

Third, life — specifically, the need to disconnect in order to connect.

“For example, if I’m having a conversation with you, you know how irritating it is when I check my phone as I’m talking to you. (Or worse yet, when you’re talking to me?) So I might occasionally have a good conversation with someone else, too. That doesn’t mean I don’t like you or don’t think your text message is important, it’s just that this person deserves my full attention right now.”

Like I said, context is key.

Round 3: Commitment issues. There are instances when we want to say no but don’t want to let other people down, so we don’t reply. We don’t commit.

Sometimes the no-reply can be exchanged with the confusing FB thumbs up or “Like,” or the noncommittal “OK.”

The act of saying no may be difficult for some people, who fear it may trigger a negative response or a retaliation of some sort from the other party.

This may be followed up by another message or question, such as the intimidating “why?”

But that should not stop us from saying no. When you are able to turn down something or someone, it means that you have priorities, you know what is important and that it’s impossible to cover everything and please everyone.

And, yes, people can react, but that’s not our problem. They’re free to react just as we’re free to respond.

The only way to get past the fear of saying no is to say no. As they say, practice makes perfect. Remember the four Cs: clear, concise, complete and courteous.

People will appreciate more a “thanks for asking but no” reply rather than a “maybe,” “I’ll try” or “I’ll think about it,” especially when you’re saying any of these things just to appease the other.

By doing so, you are valuing the time of other people. Moreover, a “maybe” may lead to a string of white lies or even stress, because of you prolonging the situation.

What’s worse is saying yes when we mean no, which according to Paulo Coelho, “cheapens our word, diminishes our sense of self-respect, and compromises our integrity.”

It’s pretty obvious that there’s no black and white answer to this dilemma. Context, type of message, relationship with the sender, priorities, time management, and other factors come into play. In the end, it all boils down to a person’s intention. NNTR. (Um, “no need to reply.”)

* * *

Patricia Irene C. Patdu, 27, works at the Center for Local and Regional Governance in UP Diliman.

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TAGS: Patricia Irene C. Patdu, seen-zoned, social media etiquette, Young Blood
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