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A Reply To All My Unread Messages

I know you’re one of the unlucky people I’ve ignored. I owe you an explanation, and here it is. 

Dear You,

I know it’s been a while. I haven’t responded to you since… yesterday? Or was that last week? It’s hard to remember these days, but I promise, I’m not doing it on purpose. A quick look through my Messenger app will show you that I have at least 10 unread messages at a time. This is not far from the number of little red notifications on my other apps. Some of these messages were sent to me years ago. I’m afraid these numbers can only grow, if not stay the same, in the days, weeks, and months to come. I know you’re one of the unlucky people I’ve ignored. I owe you an explanation, and here it is. 

I wasn’t always like this. Yes, I’d miss a few chats or texts here and there, but I did find joy in talking to other people — sometimes several at the same time, until the wee hours of morning. I used to quickly find the decency to reply to my unread messages, taking pleasure in seeing the number of notifications go all the way down to zero. That’s what decent people do right? They respond. They don’t leave your message on “seen,and they certainly don’t take weeks or months to reply. But today, this is who I am. 

I’m notorious for not replying. My friends would joke about it, tag me in memes saying I’m “that one friend who messages you one second, and replies after a year.” I’d laugh about it, they’d laugh about it, but I knew it took a turn for the worst when I stopped replying even to my closest friends and family. Whenever my phone pings, I’d glance at it for a second, and quickly return to a state of desolation. Later on, I realized it had nothing to do with decency or good manners, or the lack thereof. It’s not even about who you are or what our relationship was. There is something deeper inside me, stopping me from clicking on that message. 

When someone chats with me on Facebook, at first I get a thrill. My phone lets me see part of the message, so I instantly know what it might be about. I guess this notification feature also tricked me into believing in what I call my “phantom replies”: replying to your message in my head, but never really typing it. So, it’s not what it looks like, I do know you’ve messaged me. I do think of what to say to you, but that part, I usually overdo. After getting that sense of thrill from knowing that somebody remembered me today, regardless of what the message is about — a business inquiry, an e-numan invitation, a link to the new music video of BTS, or a message asking me if I’m okay  (the hardest one to reply to) — my head begins to obsess over the would-be conversation. Is this reply okay? What would I reply after your reply? Will I be able to sustain this conversation? This last question is usually  the deciding factor, because most of the time, the answer is no. 

From being the friend everyone rants to or asks advice from, now I can’t even thank you for your birthday greeting — an action  that will literally take only three seconds of my life. I can’t seem to settle on any reply, with my brain cells and motivation for absolutely anything reduced to none. Instead of being the one to “kill” our conversation, instead of saying goodbye to you — which I always hate to do — I’d rather pretend it never started in the first place.  And so your message becomes much worse:  unread, unopened, forgotten.

The past year left me no choice but to cling to my phone and laptop for any type of interaction. For the privileged ones like myself, this set-up seemed easier: everything from inside my home. My calendar was instantly fully booked. Zoom meetings everyday? Sure. A game of Werewolf via Telegram every night? Let’s do this! E-numan at 8 p.m.? E-strangle me when I say no! But slowly, these activities consumed all of my energy and soon, all of my being. Ending calls seemed as tiring as getting home from a party. Even replying to messages became just as draining. I’d rather stay home. I’d rather my words stay inside my head. 

I do not blame my “rudeness,” as my mother once called it, solely on recent events because I have unread messages from years ago that continue to haunt me today. (I’m so sorry!) Unfortunately, they’d forever be unread, unless I miraculously get another message from you, if you haven’t unfriended me yet. Then you’d have to excuse my incoming apologies for “not replying to your previous messages” or “having only seen them now.” 

On a bad day, your message will just be another notification, waiting to be seen, and soon lost in the abyss. But I know the good days will come. And that’s what I want to say more than anything. Someday my head will quit obsessing over your simple “Hello.” Someday, I’ll be able to muster the courage and energy and send you back a meme like I used to. When that day comes, I’ll understand if you’re the one having a bad day and can’t reply. I’ll still message you from time to time, whether you see it or not, to let you know that I’m just here. When you do reply, I’ll act as if no time has passed. Because I know, you’ll do the same for me. 

For the meantime, I hope you forgive my inconsistent presence in your inbox. Forgive me when you see me share The Office memes on my feed, but not reply to your chat. Every day is different but every day, I will try. Soon enough, I’ll finally be able to send you a message, saying how grateful I am that you understand. 

Still yours,

Brenda

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