NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 1, 2013

Email, voicemail -- no answer. WTH?

Technology is supposed to make us easier to reach, and often does. But the same modes of communication that have hooked us on the instant reply also can leave us feeling forgotten.

We send an email, a text or an instant chat message. We wait — and nothing happens. Or we make a phone call. Leave a voicemail message. Wait. Again, nothing.

We tend to assume it’s a snub, and sometimes it is.

Erica Swallow, a 26-year-old New Yorker, says she’s heard a former boyfriend brag about how many text messages he never reads. “Who does that?” she asks, exasperatedly.

These days, though, no response can mean a lot of things. Maybe some people don’t see messages because they prefer email and you like Twitter. Maybe we’re just plain overwhelmed, and can’t keep up with the constant barrage of communication.

Whatever the reason, it’s causing a lot of frustration. A recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 39 percent of cellphone owners say people they know complain because they don’t respond promptly to phone calls or text messages. A third of cell owners also have been told they don’t check their phones frequently enough.

It happens in love. It happens in business.

“Tell me to go to hell, but just tell me something! I’m getting lonely over here.” That’s what Cherie Kerr, a public relations executive in Santa Ana, Calif., jokes she’s considered putting after her email signature.

It happens in families.

Last year, Terri Barr, a woman on Long Island, N.Y., with grown children, sent her son a birthday present — a $350 gift certificate for “a wonderful kayaking trip for six, lunch, wine, equipment,” she says.

She sent him an email with the details, but he didn’t respond. She says she then telephoned and texted him to tell him it was a present. He eventually sent a one-line email, she says, telling her he was too swamped to open her email gift right then.

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