Last year there was a Tweet doing the rounds. It was a callout to find the right word to describe that situation where:
It may be from someone putting themselves out there, by reaching out to you. Within a day though, that message is sitting so far down the list, it’s forgotten or superseded by “more important” things. And the person on the other end, the one who gave time and attention to connecting with you, only hears crickets, and wonders WTF happened. They may try again, but even if you’re again genuinely too busy to reply, they don’t know that. So they may end up taking it more personally, because that’s how humans are wired.
Whilst no ones like rejection, we now all play a hand in doing the rejecting, and it seems to have become ‘ok’ to do that. I used to think the word to best describe this ‘lack of response’ situation was “rude”. But now I think the word is “lacknowledgement”.
It’s an affliction we’re all exposed to through message overload, and as a result, we’re losing the ability to acknowledge the people behind the message.
A lack of acknowledgement means we are becoming unable to appreciate and respect people. We can no longer truly ‘see’ people.
That message may be important, valuable or meaningful to the writer. But in not getting to it, you’re snubbing their generosity in reaching out to you.
We’re the ones who are getting worse at prioritising connection or paying attention to people in the real world. (Other than perhaps connecting with our closest family and friends, and the people in our day-to-day Slack chats, who may also happen to sit across from us).
The dopamine economy is constantly vying for our attention. It conditions us to deal in automatic responses. We’re drawn to the shiny, addiction-creating next ‘new thing’ that keeps our finger twitching on the refresh button. And we all regularly get lost down the rabbit hole of scrolling up.
Do you actually even know ‘why’ you joined Vero in those frenzied few days where FOMO got the better of you, and everyone else in your feed too?
The dings and pings that interrupt every second of our day are eating away at our brains and our attention skills. A study by Larry D. Rosen discovered that students now seem unable to concentrate for more than 5 minutes. They’re also self-interrupting to check their phones. And this self-interrupting behaviour isn’t limited to students.
In constantly looking for the future thing, we’re losing out on experiencing what’s in our now, including the people trying to connect with us here.
Our digital landscape is in danger of becoming a desert of disconnection and disillusionment, because we’re not making the time or giving the gift of our attention.
In our distraction, we’re becoming ‘less human’ in our responses.
We can’t even acknowledge ourselves…
I find that a truly sad statement, and yet it rings with truth. We have work to do.
Here’s a few simple ways to strengthen your acknowledgement skills …
Would you open a door and then slam it on someone’s fingers? So why encourage someone to connect with you if you don’t mean it, can’t acknowledge them, or are unable to follow through on what you’ve offered? Say and do what you mean. Do it kindly.
Dodgy advertisers aside, people share a piece of themselves with you when they invest time to send you a genuine message. If you don’t have time to respond in full, at least send a short reply acknowledging that you’ve received their communication. Apologise for delays, and do follow up. There is always a place for good manners in friendship and business.
Put your phone down. Please. Leave it in the other room. Instead of communicating in hashtags and selfies, have a conversation with the other person in front of you. Look at and absorb what’s around you.
Let your children see your face, not the lens of your camera phone. We perpetuate the cycle of bad behaviour by setting the bad example. Do you know that if we snap a quick photo with our phones, it affects how our brains retain the memory of the image? We’ve now handed that responsibility over to our digital devices, so we’re less likely to acknowledge the value of making the memory.
The digital sphere, and the tools which accompany it, now form a large part of how our world functions, there’s no escaping that. But the situation doesn’t have to control us. We can refocus and reprioritise our attention. We can manage our usage and our behaviour.
The affliction of “lacknowledgement” means we’re all being disconnected together. It can be a lonely place. Wouldn’t you rather reconnect and find ways to stay connected?
We can start to do this through the simple act of Acknowledgement. Your ability to connect depends on it. So, put the time and work in. Make the effort.
I see you.
Do you see me?