I hate the read receipt, and I think I always willAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
The read receipt. One of the most vile things to be introduced to the messaging system, the read receipt is the bane of many people's very existence. Why do we use SMS? Why do we send instant messages? Why do we use these texting services when we could just as easily finish an entire conversation via voice call in one-tenth of the time it takes to have an entire conversation via text? Because it's convenient, that's why. You can pick conversations up and leave it off on an "as needed" basis. That's what texting is good for.
But sometimes you have to face the function that ruins everything, and that's the read receipt. But the read receipt wasn't always used as a read receipt. In the beginning, the basic idea of letting a sender know that the receiving party actually received what was sent, you would receive a notification called a Delivery Status Notification. This notification would only let you know whether the message was successfully delivered or not - great! That's a useful notification, and is really all I need to know on most occassions. But then you have the more intricate notification system, the Message Disposition Notifications. A Message Disposition Notification, or MDN, was the first step to creating the thing that eats away at a person's very soul. This allowed people to know whether an e-mail was either opened or deleted, sometimes without ever being opened in the first place. It was the beginning of a horrible, horrible relationship between sender and receiver.
When it comes to the actual read receipts themselves, the idea was first widely popularized by BlackBerry Messenger. Now, in many cases, read receipts can be seen as a good thing. They can be especially comforting to parents who are tired of hearing the same excuse from their kids that they did or didn't see a message when it was more than likely that they did, or even for simple things like a request for something to be picked up on the way home from work or a reminder. Naturally, being used with BlackBerry Messenger, it was likely to make sure that important work-related messages were received.Yes, sometimes they're good.
Really, it's not so much as the read receipt itself that I hate. It's more of the fact that some services now are making it so that read receipts aren't even an option, you have to use them.
Take Facebook, for instance. I used to use Facebook Messenger quite frequently whenever it first came out. Just about everybody I was close to used Facebook as their main social network, so it was just easiest to use Facebook Messenger as the Instant Messaging client of choice. People would message me, and eventually I would get around to it. Normally, I would be inclined to respond. But every once in a while I would get a message that I would rather not respond to. In fact, I would just rather pretend that it never happened. But with the read receipts that Facebook implemented in the summer of 2012, it's almost impossible to avoid it. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. If you read the message and ignore it, they know. If you don't read the message, the little notification bauble sits there, taunting you, every day. There's hardly an easy way around it, and Facebook made it so that you can't turn the read receipts off. Since then, I have found that I don't use Facebook Messaging a whole heckuva lot anymore.
And then you have in-betweeners, like Apple's iMessage. iMessage is cool in the fact that it lets you turn off read receipts for yourself, so if you don't necessarily want other people to know you've read their messages they won't. But despite you being able to turn off read receipts for yourself, you can still see other's read receipts if they have theirs turned on. And when I say "you can", I mean "you will", because there's no way to turn their read receipts off and still use iMessage. Showing to somebody else that you've read their message is only half the battle; the other half is knowing that somebody has read yours and they, for whatever reason, decided not to respond.
What do you do at that point? Do you call them out on it, do you patiently wait day after day until they do respond? It's impossible to know what to do. You don't want to call them out on it and seem like the impatient jerk you know that you are, but they can't just get away with reading what you said and never responding! And why didn't they respond, anyway? Was it something you said? Was it offensive? Why did things have to end this way?! So many unanswered questions, and all because that little read receipt is staring at you, mocking you.
Personally, I could very much live without read receipts for the rest of my life. If I can help it, I don't enable it. Texting and instant messaging were meant to be done out of convenience. I don't consider it convenient knowing somebody else received a read receipt and is probably contemplating their life's decisions that led them to whatever caused me not to respond to what they said. It's also not convenient being on that same side of the fence knowing somebody else has read something I said, yet didn't respond.
They say ignorance is bliss, and I think that read receipts are the perfect example of why such a phrase holds true.
Okay, maybe it's not that dramatic, but still. They kind of suck, and I don't like them. I never will.
Readers, what are your thoughts on read receipts? Do you appreciate them for what they are, or do you think they cause more issues than anything?