Is Facebook Groups Read Receipt Bringing You Down?

6 years ago

Facebook read receipt is stressing me out.  While it's a great way for group owners to track who is really participating in a group and who isn't even clicking over to read, for group participants, it adds a new layer of immediacy to every level of communication from leaving a comment to getting your bum over to the site to read everyone else's thoughts in a respectable amount of time.

In the past, when a message came into my email inbox or news feed from one of the dozens of Facebook groups that I participate in, I would either click over and read only if I was semi-busy (coming back to comment later), or not read until later in the day when I knew I could give it my full attention and respond.  No one knew if I read it and then set it aside to comment on later, or if I hadn't seen it at all.  And it made me feel unrushed.

 Credit Image: © Patrick Seeger/DPA/

But now the message comes into my inbox and this inner monologue begins:

Crap.  Another Facebook group message.  If I don't click over now, I'll be the 28th out of 28 people to see it, as I always seem to be.  How do other people read Facebook in real time?  Why am I the only person who can't seem to get a hang of time-sensitive social media?  I bet everyone calls me Twenty-eight behind my back in that group.  How am I always last even if I only wait an hour?

Fine.  I'll click over.  Great, I'm finally 7 out of 28.  Fantastic.  No one can call me Twenty-eight today.  Crap.  Now everyone knows that I read it.  But I don't know what I want to say.  If I don't say anything, I'll seem cruel that I read this post and didn't comment.  I mean, if I hadn't read it yet, that would be the reason why I hadn't written anything.  But now everyone knows I read it.

I need to get work done.  If I hang out here commenting, I'm not going to hit my work deadline.  So I'm either a dick to my workplace or I'm a dick to the people in this group.  Thanks, Facebook, for making me into a dick.

Gah, fine, I'll just answer now.  I'll just type up the first thing that comes to mind rather than giving this thoughtful consideration just so I can get it off my plate.  There.  Publish.  It's up.  I can delete this stupid message and move on.  I hate being in Facebook groups.  I should just drop out of all Facebook groups because I don't have the time to dedicate to them without apparently looking like an ass.  Shit.  Did I just get another message?  You have to be kidding me.  There's now another message on the site?  I give up.

But I can't give up because people will see that I JUST commented on the other message so I'm obviously online.  And now if I don't click over for this one, people will think that...

What if blogs started logging every single person who read their post?  So the author would know exactly who was reading posts several days later or not reading them at all (or reading and not commenting)?  What if every email came with read-receipt, and you knew without a doubt what time the message was opened?  What if Twitter started telling you exactly which of your followers actually read each Tweet.  Metrics would be great for knowing who is paying attention, but can you imagine the performance anxiety on the part of the reader?

Of course, I may be wrong.  People may not judge others at all for reading their Facebook post without answering a question.  People may not care if the same person never sees their Tweets.

But I doubt that.

After all, what is the point of the metrics?  How many people would keep someone in a group if you knew without a doubt that they never clicked over to read?  How many people would keep following someone on Twitter who they thought was a mutual supporter if they received a message in black-and-white that the person never reads their Tweets?  How many people would get pissed waiting for an answer to a time-sensitive email if they knew the email had been read hours earlier?

I do get cranky when I send out an Evite and can clearly see that people opened the invitation yet never bother to RSVP.  So, no thank you, Facebook.  I'd rather not be able to track who exactly has read a posting.  Mostly because I don't want to be tracked myself and the pressure that brings to act in the "now" instead of acting when I can give something my full attention on my time schedule.

What do you think of Facebook read receipt?  Or did you not realize this has been happening for the last few weeks because you haven't checked in with a group to see it?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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