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Why It's So Hurtful for Someone With Chronic Illness to Get No Reply

It’s the feeling you get staring at your IM messenger and seeing that your message has been read by the recipient, but no reply.

It is the feeling of looking at your phone and seeing that you sent that text…days ago, but no reply.

It is checking your e-mail inbox and wondering if that e-mail you sent per chance went into their spam folder, or into a digital vacuum, or if (gasp) maybe they are injured on the side of the road having flipped their car because they were illegally trying to answer your e-mail while driving and now they are in desperate need of medical care with their phone just out of reach of their fractured fingers… But the result is the same: no reply.


Yes, communication has changed and we now live in a digital age. This is a wondrous thing in that we can communicate with each other like never before, anytime, anywhere. For some this is amazing because we see too little of people in person and we are hungry for fellowship with friends. Especially the chronically ill, as we are isolated more than most and rely on digital communication to stay in touch with people we care about. But for some I know this can also be an annoyance in that we become slaves to our devices.

No matter how you feel about digital communication, I want to set that aside for a moment and have you consider the thoughts and feelings of the recipient of the “no reply” (please note I am not talking about those who get back to you hours or a day or two later – I know we are busy).

Here are some things the “no replyee” might be thinking or feeling:

1. I don’t matter to you.

2. I annoy you.

3. You don’t like me.

4. I am very low on the list of people in your life.

5. I think you are a rude person who is giving me the equivalent of the silent treatment.

6. I have offended you.

7. You just forgot.

8. I am a terrible person and no wonder people ignore me and I should just not contact people because it puts them in the awkward position of just “try and ignore her and maybe she’ll go away.”

So, for those who never answer, I really do spend a lot of time pondering what is going on in your head when you see a message in whatever form it came in (especially if it is personally addressed to you) and decide to never reply. What gives?!

'I just love being ignored! said no one ever'

No,. really! I am curious because with dead air I can only guess at what is going on with you, because I need more than just my one-sided perspective.

So this is me really and honestly asking the question to those of you on Facebook who I can see have read my IM…months ago and never replied, and to those who have received texts and never replied, let me know!

I have a lot of grace and I am always totally cool with “hey sorry, I don’t have time” or if it’s a question, just a quick “no.” You aren’t going to hurt my feelings, but please explain the dead air which for the no replyee is the equivalent of standing in front of you talking and you just staring back not saying a word. It would seem rude, right?

Also, please have grace for us, the digital communicators. Especially the vast community of us who have endured isolation due to illness and/or distance, and for who being able to communicate with our friends digitally is a beam of light in our world.

So. Am I sending this out into the void? Or by chance will a few reply?

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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages.