Is This Email Trend Rude or Just Modern?

Updated on November 14, 2012
A.J. asks from Norristown, PA
18 answers

This could actually pertain to all "messaging" technology. OK. So. I'm one of those people who does not ignore emails, texts, FB messages. When I worked in the garment industry, I NEVER ignored a work email or call, no matter from who, no matter how busy. I would answer right way, or I would send a, "I cannot address this until ___" message, and then I would stick to it. Nothing got ignored unless it was an accident, and then I would apologize. As for friend's emails, EVEN MORE SO, I do not ever ignore them. If I'm going to be offline for a few days, I let everyone know, and again, I answer right away, or say when I can answer if I'm swamped and can't put any thought into something. Either way, the emails are not ignored.

But I sort of feel like I'm one of the few people like this and that LOTS of people feel fine "not answering" things, especially about things they don't want to acknowledge, like breaking bad news etc. For example (one of thousands), I invited a close friend to my art opening, and she never answered, Weeks went by, I re-sent a few messages pertaining to it because our mutual friend was staying with her that weekend and the FRIEND was coming, and we were car pooling....and anyway. She didn't come and she NEVER ANSWERED ANY OF THE INQUIRIES. We all attended the same party afterwords, and she was there, so it's like she just didn't want to say, 'Hey, no, we're only going to the party, not your thing." I was fine no matter what, it wasn't "less hurtful" to ignore the invite than to decline or something. Similarly, I needed a piece I'm writing for our local paper edited, so I shot it to her asking to let me know if she could proof it or not, and five hours later NEVER HEARD BACK, but she's tweeted like six times on FB in that time frame.....and she's one of those people who never puts down her phone or ignores ANY incoming messages. I know she's home, and I know she's flaky, so I said, "Just let me know if you can or not and when even if you can't get to it right now"...but alas. No answer (and btw, I edit for her too at times and I never ignore her messages or invites). I can name tons of other "no answer" instances from tons of other people, and I get it we're ALL BUSY. But to me it's like how it's become "normal" not to RSVP, or OK not to stick to the RSVP, and people just shy away from any uncomfortable confrontation EVEN THOUGH it's so much EASIER to type back an excuse than to actually have to face or call the person like in the old days....

I mean a friend invited me to her son's birthday party and I really didn't want to have to decline, but I wouldn't dream of "not answering" so I had to compose a thoughtful response, not leave her I crazy? Is it OK to just ignore people and let them "figure out over time" your answer was "no"? Are manners going down the tubes, or is it OK to be flaky like this? I'm 42 and I feel like the code of conduct has really shifted in the last 15 or so years...

For example, at work, all the people my age (I was 35 when I left) would answer all calls and emails and weren't scared to pick up the phone and confront someone right way,...but the new recruits in their early 20's??? NO problem ignoring everyone if it was inconvenient to them to answer someone. What's up with that?

*****and of course I cant' answer everything right away, like anyone, I'll get to some stuff in a few days, or a time frame mutual to the relationship if it's not urgent, it's just the total ignoring I don't get.

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So What Happened?

Calling them is a good point, it's just sometimes I don't want to risk long conversation for a sort question so I figure it's easier for everyone to just answer a text or message....but maybe too easy to ignore too...

OK< a couple of clarifications, you all are right, from THIS question, it seems like the person is not a good friend, but that's the point, SHE IS! I just came downstairs from painting a room, and I have like 4 emails from her in the last two hours (none about my edit of course) and we're involved with a million things together, talk all the time....she just avoids CERTAIN types of things, and she does this with many other people and many other people do it "Not answering" is OK instead of "no". Hard to explain.

And also, about the immediate responses from work, I did not mean THAT SECOND. Of course if I was on the subway when someone called, and then there was a meeting at my destination, it may be a few hours before I could respond...but my point was, that even in a high urgency job with tons of emails, calls etc to handle, they all got responses that day or in the morning if it was necessary. They were all to do with production to meet deadlines, you couldn't just "never answer" the other people trying to accomplish their part of the again, hard to explain.

Cheryl B. I won't expect you to be strapped to your phone for my benefit. I have lots of friends who aren't big internet users or cell phone users, so obviously I would call them or "work it out". But when you have close friends who you KNOW are internet addicts who never put down their smart phone for longer than it takes to wash their hands and they constantly tweet but they only answer certain messages and not others, even if your message is urgent, it becomes a noticeable pattern. People commonly ignore messages they don't feel like answering imo even when it's rude to do so. I've actually overheard a girl in line at a cafe saying to a friend, "That's___ she needs me to sub for her tonight at the gym, I don't feel like answering". WTF? Why would you not just type, "I can't make it" so the person doesn't "wait" around wondering if they have a sub??! The girl didn't want to let the lady down, but she did even worse imo, and I'm sure she'll just act like she didn't see the message.

Featured Answers


answers from Philadelphia on

to M. it seems like constant ability to interact makes people not interact as much.

i am guilty of this sometimes.

i read a text and think ohhh I cant think of a good response I'll respond later and then oops completely forget.
if someone kept texting though I couldnt imagine not responding.

my email is filled with so much junk i'd rather a text

ETA the good old days you are referring to was also when people could watch tv or go for a walk and not be everyone wants immediate responses because people have cell phones all of the time..sometimes its tiring

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I am seeing this trend too. It's very sad.

I ended up unliking people because of this. The message their lack of replying means that they don't want to be friends... at least that's how I see it.


2 moms found this helpful

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answers from St. Louis on

I agree with most of what you said except, why do people complain about people not returning messages when no one seems to call each other?

I hear a lot of people complaining about this and I always ask, why didn't you call them? I mean if you can text clearly you have their phone number....They always look at me like I have two heads for suggesting something so outrageous.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

An invite requires an RSVP, which means "respond, please", regardless of the ability to attend. So that, IMO, was different. That was owed a response because of the nature of the email. IMO, people who do not RSVP are rude.

I respond to work emails quickly where warranted, and depending on the question, I might say, "I have to look into this" or "here is your answer". Not all of them need to be responded right away. I try to respond to friends in a day or two, which has been my norm, so people know what to expect. More timely questions are asked via phone or text.

What drives me nuts is when I contact someone and it requires a response and there's no response. My stepson hates talking on the phone and rarely picks up when I call. So I text him. I asked him very specifically, "When are you coming home? Your little sister is asking about you." He's said for days now that he'll be here...but I guess he's having too much fun with friends. He can't even tell me "I don't know yet". I get NOTHING. I'm pretty irritated. But when it's something he wants from me, he wants a quick response. So I think part of it is selfishness. If it suits people (I am 35 and everybody is different) they WILL respond. It just doesn't suit them. And I think that's rude.

SS? He'll be buying his own food/eating leftovers. I'm in for the day and not going to buy extra food because he finally decided to grace us with his presence. Maybe if he responded to attempts to communicate he'd get more consideration.

(FWIW, my DH hates texts. He will often respond to texts by calling back. But he's also a lot more social overall. Introverts like me don't mind texting so much.)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Here is how I see it, for whatever it is worth.
If you are of the generation that started life in the working world without the benefit of constant email and 24/7 online access, then it IS a lot easier to ignore an email, when you would have otherwise expected a phone call. Or a mailed invitation. Email seems so much more...... casual. And so much LESS.... official.

If you are NOT from the generation that actually spoke verbal words to another person in order to communicate (i.e., everything is conveyed via email or text) then EVERYTHING is casual, and you can ignore it just like you can not answer your caller ID telephone (if you have one at home) because you can see it is a telemarketer. The entire generation (with a few exceptions) is so much more centered on their own universe... not how they fit into the bigger picture. They carry around their own internet and therefore, they are their world.

Do I think it strange that some people don't respond to emails? Not at all. I know people who think emailing certain requests or invitations is rude all in itself, and so, on principle, might choose to ignore it. It's perspective. You see it as rude to ignore, another person may see it as an intrusive obligation and they aren't playing that game.

But... that's just how I see it could be from different perspectives. I am from the in-between group: it was brand new tech, and nobody even knew what a "cell phone" was when I entered the work force. They didn't exist. But when I left working to be a SAHM, they were becoming commonplace, mostly among the younger people (the early 20s crowd). The technology made the jump to all groups, but the style of use has stayed true to the generation who is using it.

ETA: just to give you an example-- the last visit home with my parents (they are 70), I got to hear a rant by my mother about everybody texting her instead of just picking up the phone and calling. She has unlimited texts, it isn't that she is counting the numbers and annoyed by that... she finds it dismissive and sees it as a lack of respect and selfishness to send a text when you could easily call and use your mouth to speak. And it doesn't matter that you only have time for 60 seconds to get the text sent, and not to get drawn into a 10 minute conversation... that just highlights her point>> people are disrespectful sending texts instead because it is all about "me" as the sender, MY time, MY needs, MY schedule. And she went on and on and on. 70 sounds really old when you look at it typed, but it really isn't that old anymore. And there are a LOT of people with the mentality that they hate texts and emails when not necessary, that aren't 70.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

This isn't uncommon, unfortunately.

If you want a response to an email, text, or otherwise, you should include instructions that the recipient should respond. "Please respond whether or not you will be attending no later than ______."

To some it seems that "RSVP" means to only respond if you plan on coming. Miss Manners and I are appalled, but that is the way folks are these days, so we must adjust our verbage so they understand.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I agree! I have been so frustrated with people's lack of response. Sometimes I feel like to get an answer its like pulling teeth. I worked for ten years in the staffing industry and ALWAYS returned calls and emails. Now, I have noticed I can't get answers even after asking why I haven't received some type of response. I've also noticed follow through has gone down the tubes. I don't understand it either. My poor brother and his wife were calling people days before their wedding to find out if people were coming since they never even returned the stamped RSVP cards. How lazy is that?!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

It's not just the youth. When my husband and I got married, it took me about four years and a conversation with his cousin to understand that they (this particular group of relatives) just do not respond to invitations. If they plan to attend, then they just show up. I will never understand that. They actually accused me of being a "goody-good" for RSVPing for every invitation.

I don't think that every single piece of communication requires a response, but if there is a question or an invitation, then I think that there is little to no excuse for a timely response.

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answers from Chicago on

I think that by sending the communication via typed electronic communication it is easier for a person to forget to reply, or to ignore it. I know that I sometimes forget to reply to messages, but it is not because I don't want to--I just get overwhelmed by the volume. But, a phone call? I have a much easier time replying to a voicemail--that's just how my brain works--I remember my friend's voice on the phone.

Perhaps start calling her--maybe you'll have to leave a voicemail, and hopefully, having taken a more personal approach, you'll get a reply.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Well, I'm 43 so we are definitely contemporaries. Hey, we came from the time when, if you didn't answer the phone, it just kept ringing (no answering machines/voice mail). Every call was answered and you had no idea who it may be before you picked up the receiver (so no call screening) -- at home OR at work. Technology has enabled us to become more productive, this is true. But it has also contributed to a peculiar avoidance syndrome. Hell, I can't even get my own brother to call me/email me/text me back. Seriously, I'm not joking.

When did people start feeling that it's ok not to RSVP/ return calls/ answer emails, etc? Are we all over-extended in our commitments? Honestly, I don't know. I hate to sound like an oldie here, but our interpersonal communicating skills have really gone down the drain. (I speak in general terms) I also think (and yes, I'm guilty of it, too) that it's easier to ask favors via email/text. I don't like putting people on the spot, personally, and so that's why I do it. Maybe a little fear of rejection, too (easier to process it in our private bubble vs. live feedback). But for sure it's easier/less time-consuming to jot out an email very quickly than engage in an actual conversation -- probably because we have to few real conversations w/ our loved ones these days!

Anyway, I don't have any answers for you, but you did give me an opportunity to vent right along with you. Kudos to you for not keeping people hanging in limbo!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Where I work - you could not get your work done if you jumped on to every email that came in the minute it came in.
I have to complete a task/report and THEN I'll check my email.
I DO check often - but getting my work completed and on time is more important.
All day long would be one long email fest and you wouldn't have time for anything else.
Besides that - we have 3 main methods of communication - phone, instant messaging and email.
Some people will only work with one favored medium - if you try communicating with a method they don't prefer - you won't get a response.
With my personal email - I only check it a few times a day.
If I have to think about a response, I'll get back to them in a day or so.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think that the problem is that people expect instant gratification anymore with high speed internet and twitter, etc. The truth of the matter is, those people who send texts, e-mails and twitters all day long are ADDICTED to their phones. Those of us who are not addicted, aren't sitting around all day pecking out responses or texts to people - we're actually living life.

I don't own a cell phone; I don't do Face Book; I am only on the internet at work (even though I have it at home); and I don't have any text capability. If you want to talk to me, you have to pick up the phone. You say you don't want to risk a long conversation, but I don't want to be tied to my computer and e-mail all day either. I feel like you can just call me or work it out yourself but don't expect me to be tied to my e-mail all day long for your benefit.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Good question! I'm not sure it is an easy answer either. Technology has definitely changed our communication formats and I guess social etiquette at the same time.

E-mail - I pretty much respond to every e-mail I receive. With that said, I do not have a smart phone so I can only respond to e-mails when at home. Sometimes that might not be for a few days.

Test messages - I do respond to them all, but I might not respond immediately (e.g. I am driving or busy doing something with my kids). I hate having entire conversations via text though b/c I have limited text messages and hate going over my limits.

Phone calls - I definitely respond to them all as soon as I can.

One thing I am guilty of is not responding to Facebook event requests. In large part I think this is b/c they are new to me and I forget they are out there. Lately I have a new invitation each day. Ugh! On the flip side, I do feel it is less formal when someone sends and invite to every friend on their FB wall when they are having a pampered chef party or something similar. Somehow it doesn't seem very sincere to me when people I rarely talk to want me to buy something from them so they can get free products. Yes, it is probably rude not to respond. I did just respond to 6 party requests yesterday so I am working on it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Not modern...just rude.

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answers from San Francisco on

On the one hand, I do not agree that every e-mail/text/voicemail must be answered instantly. I'm sorry, but I am also in my late 30s, and when we entered the workforce, people did not respond instantly. When we got up from our desks to attend a meeting, voicemails were left and we didn't know a thing about them until the meeting was over. And everyone was okay with that. We've become like Pavlov's dogs, tethered to our iPhones to the exclusion of all else. And yet, we still feel the need to complain about people who are on their cell phones everywhere they go (at restaurants, movie theaters, in line at the bank). Either we want people to respond instantaneously, or we are okay with a delay. We can't have it both ways.

Having said that, it seems like your friend just "isn't that into you," for lack of a nicer way to say it. I don't think the issue is about her perception of normal communications, but rather about her perception of your friendship. RSVPs are important, whether it's for a child's birthday party or to an adult's gallery show. Even if it's bad news, a simple, "So sorry, we won't be able to come" is sufficient. However, your friend doesn't seem to care enough about your friendship to RSVP, or let you know she can't edit your paper, or any of that. If it were me, I might let that friendship go by the wayside, in favor of those friends who do value the connection you have with them.

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answers from Portland on

There are two separate things going on here, A.. One is most certainly the 'mode' of communication these days; the other is the relationship with your friend.

Because you didn't ask for advice specifically about the friendship, I know you are a smart chickie and will if you want it.:)

In regard to the technology: a dear thinky friend and I had a conversation about this a while back. We both agree that it really does hearken back to Marshall MacLuhan's assertion that "the media is the message". That is to say, our choice of mode of communication says a lot to us about how important something is. The more important a matter is, the more personal the communication should be, in my opinion. Some of us don't have smartphones and don't live on our computers. When it's very important to me, I call someone. Not text or email--call. (However, I've also noticed that there's a fundamental disconnect with my own sense of communication etiquette and that of the younger generation.)

I don't text. I don't tweet. I do call, however, if it's important. One thing I like to remember when asking someone for a favor is that it behooves the relationship to have that sort of obligatory conversation with the person. That might seem a bit of a strategic statement to make, however, it also helps me know if I'm asking the right person for the favor. Sometimes I can hear in a person's voice or conversation that they are busy or stressed, and I can then decide if I want their help, or if it's going to be more work all round and I'm better off making another plan. Once again, the more direct the approach, the better off I am.

I am changing my answer, (I'd suggested a book on this problematic communication) but also want add that I really agree with Victoria W below. The level of self-centeredness the technology accommodates has me worried for the next generations. What happens to intimate relationships and communications when people can just blast information out to one and all?

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answers from Boise on

There are times where I think I have answered. There are times where it has to wait for an answer and then I forget. There are times where I just have nothing to say.

If it's really important..pick up a phone and call me.



answers from San Francisco on

No, it's rude. But is there a possibility she didn't see the emails? If you know she is on FB, how about sending her the message on FB? I think sometimes it's harder to ignore FB messages than emails.

I think now you know what kind of person this friend is, so you don't rely on her for anything important. Did you ask her if she got your emails? I think you should be direct.

And yes, if it's really important, phone calling should be at least attempted, although some people ignore those too.

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