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I will sometimes ask a friend how their day was or another question via chat message. Sometimes the message will be marked as read but then they don't respond for a few day or even longer (6 months). I will see they are online, but hear nothing.

From college, I have learned that when a friend is ignoring me it is because I did something wrong and upset them, but they never call me out on it or tell me what I did wrong.* Now when someone doesn't respond when they have had a chance to I start to panic that I did something wrong, but they won't respond and tell me what I did if I did. How can I determine if they are ignoring me because I did something wrong vs ignoring me because they need time away from me vs just too busy to respond?

*Eventually I would be annoying enough that we would sit down and have a meeting about what happened. We would usually discover that I did or said something based that was interpreted differently from what I meant. Often the difference was because I didn't understand how something is normally interpreted or I was just using logic. It was a few years later I was diagnosed with autism...which makes more sense to them now.

Culture is USA, I am in the midwest.

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    Have you considered that a message marked as "read" on any form of social media has not necessarily been read? It typically only means the application has opened it while it thinks it had focus on screen. – Rory Alsop Aug 21 '17 at 6:50
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    Asking someone how their day was is not a particularly engaging question and I can certainly understand why someone would ignore that. Have you considered therapy or something similar to help improve your interactions with others? – NotThatGuy Aug 21 '17 at 12:40
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    Don't read anything into this. Sometimes the system is weird. I have had messages marked as "read" that I sent to people who I knew were sitting in a long-haul flight without internet at that moment. For me it happens, that I see the message in a situation where I cannot answer (I have to use my phone for authentication at work, sometimes I do this in the middle of meetings.) and because it was short and my brain did not really focus on it I forget about it. No offense to the sender. – skymningen Aug 22 '17 at 7:50
  • I'm curious to know if these are message exchanges with people you see in real life, or only have contact with via this single avenue. – Brendan Adkins Aug 22 '17 at 23:48
  • @BrendanAdkins of my friends I regularly talk to I have only met 2 in real life, one just at a conference. The one here in question I have only met online. – traisjames Aug 23 '17 at 4:41
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There is tons of reason why the message is marked as read but you did not get a response. One of the reason is as Rory Alsop mentioned in the comment. Perhaps your friend is being busy at that moment and just forgot to respond at the moment.

People are not obligated to reply to one's message after reading it. If you do really are concern, you should take initiative and ask them about it.
A simple message as a reminder for them will do.

My suggestion is: Don't overthink the issue and move on. Learn to accept that being ignored is part of life helps you not being bothered by such small matters.

Edit: English is not my native language, but since Bradley Wilson suggested, I will try to compile some simple message to get their attention.

If the previous message is about a news/article and you wanted their opinion :

Hey did you read the news/article? What's your thought about it?

If it is about a date/gathering :

So are you interested in joining the dinner/gathering on XXX?

If there is no specific topic to mentioned about :

Hey! It's been a while, how do you do / how are things going / how is it going / how it goes?

Be creative and sounds formal. People would probably reply to formal message more often.

If you really care/cherish the friendship, you will eventually think of something to begin the conversation.

Edit 2: WARNING: this might be inaccurate but just an extra advise for OP based on what I noticed from OP comments.

OP, perhaps she is just being busy as you mentioned she just quit her job. Probably she is busying looking for a new job, or she might need some time to be alone for the moment. Just be patient and wait for her response, she will reply to you eventually.

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    Someone I know read her text messages every day, and never answers. Never. Ever. Same for emails. And picks up her phone every 3 to 6 months to talk to you for 3 or 4 hours. Weird, and hard to understand at the beginning, then used to it. Sometimes, people just don't like these media to communicate, or just don't care... – OldPadawan Aug 21 '17 at 7:37
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    I could be wrong, but I can't imagine that many people would take kindly to a message saying little more than "How’s it going" or similar from someone they're not particularly good friends with. It might be polite, but it just isn't a good starting point to a conversation. It's also not really formal (not that you should be sending formal messages to casual acquaintances). – NotThatGuy Aug 21 '17 at 12:27
  • Yep, she did kind of get back eventually. – traisjames Aug 23 '17 at 4:40
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I often forget to answer such meaningless messages. It's not personal. I have probably read the message while I was busy, maybe at work, maybe shopping, maybe talking to someone else. I put my phone away, continue with what I am doing right now. Fast forward half an hour later, maybe even 2-3 hours later when I finish what I was doing. Since your message had no remarkable content what so ever, I have probably completely forgotten about it since I'm already pre-occupied with something else (making dinner or whatever).

The point is, if you want to maintain relationships with people, you need to make things more engaging than "How are you doing? / How was your day?".

For example, if you know the other party is home in the evening, pick up your phone and call. Its much more personal than texting, and it engages people. You quickly notice if they are put off by it or not.

If calling isn't an option, make sure your texts are worthwhile to reply to. I get asked how my day was on a constant basis - by my parents, my close friends, my partner. Rehashing that once again isn't all that interesting. Not for me, and not really for you, either. Talk about something else. Do you have similar interests? For example, ask if they have seen the new movie on franchise X (Star Wars, Marvel, whatever, if they happen to like movies from that franchise), and whether they liked it. Or if there was a convention nearby, ask if they have gone there and how that was.

If you are somewhat close by, make sure to actually do something together in person from time to time. I'm much more likely to respond to a text asking me when I'm available for activity X, because that's important. It sticks in my head ("Remember to text Bob back about going climbing next week"), because it actually requires me to answer and is somewhat engaging, and it might be something I'd actually like to do with you!

Texting is a tool to help relationships/friendships going. But if texting meaningless pleasantries is all it's about, then there isn't much substance to it, and people will slowly lose interest.

Furthermore, with the prevalence of social media, people get bombarded by messages. That actually makes it harder to maintain meaningful relationships with other people, not easier, in my experience.

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    I am in this situation constantly. When people message me with "hi" or "how are you?" or "what's up?", it's a meaningless interruption to my day, it's noise. I don't like to be rude but I also have to get things done, so I usually ignore such messages unless I truly have nothing to do, or until they follow up with something that has more substance. – cscracker Sep 20 '17 at 22:37
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I faced the same situation.

What I did that time is I don't bother him/her to reply. Let him/her take his time to calm them down. Then I think instead of asking that what I did wrong (because this question instantly makes him remind of that negative moment) I choose to be positive.

I gave him a Thanksgiving card for being so true and always there for me (in your case it can be different, but choose positivity) after that we started to sent average 3-4 messages in a day like wishings and again didn't flood him with loads of messages. Then I planned for a surprise meetup without let him know by taking help from other friends of mine and his too.

And now we're connected more than that we were before.

I posted reality what I did that time.

Stay positive.

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Sometimes people simply don't want to be sucked into a continuing instant messaging conversation. They just want the conversation to have a point, information gets passed, and then the conversation is over. Constant to/fro of comments can get pretty tiring.

This is partly why gave up on Facebook - people were messaging me and sitting there waiting for a response, and then waiting for a response to my response, and it never ends.

It doesn't matter to them that I want to watch a show on TV, need to do some chores, carry on with my internet browsing, or just lose the screen-time altogether and do something else instead.

But nope, people write to me and want an immediate response.

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You may be making a mountain out of a mole hill.

It's just a (chat/text/etc) message, especially if it's "how their day was" that's not usually a vitally important question, so answering it probably isn't very important. Not answering it at all might not be unusual or rude. I'd assume that everyone's too busy to respond to a "how was your day" chat message without thinking they secretly held a grudge.

Maybe their chat program wasn't working right. Maybe it crashed & lost messages. Maybe it just "marked all as read" and they didn't really read it.

Just ask them the next time you talk to or see them. Like:

Hi you! [brief small talk]. Did you see the chat message I sent earlier?

A whole sit-down meeting isn't required, in fact, that could be awkward if it's just about a "how was your day" chat message. (Personally, that could look like a red flag.)

If they really are upset they really should say something about it. You could ask them about the last time you saw them, like:

Wasn't that party last week fun

or

The Empire State building sure does smell funny now, remember?

And that's their opportunity to say something about it, without feeling like they're bringing it up just to talk about you.

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Forget what you learned in college. "If X happens, then I must have done something wrong". Nonsense. If X happens, then X happens, that's all. Don't let anyone tell you that everything is your fault. If you send a message and I don't reply, the only valid conclusion is that I didn't reply. Anything else is speculation.

I send a message "I'll see you tomorrow at 13:30". If I see that you read the message, that's my reply. That's all I need to know. In many cases, it is understood that there is no need to reply to the message - unless you disagree, for example if you can't make the meeting.

And if I send a message "I'd like to see you tomorrow, what's a good time for you", and I don't get a reply, then I got a reply, and the reply is that you don't have time or don't want to meet.

And people are busy. Yes, text messages get ignored, because people are busy, because they can't be bothered at the minute, because six hours later the message is forgotten. There is no need to worry if you don't get a reply. That's how text messages work. You send them out, they tell people what you wanted to say, and sometimes you get a reply.

PS. If you send me a message "How was your day", that will be ignored, unless I'm sitting on the sofa, totally bored, and that is a very rare situation. (And unless you're my wife, and we are away from each other for some reason).

PS. I'd recommend to anyone, if you feel that somebody upset you, don't just ignore them. Either get over it, or tell them that they have upset you. In the unlikely event that this is what happened to OP, he would have felt a lot better being told "you upset me, and I'm not talking to you".

PS. How do you know the message was read? It is "marked as read", which means your computer or phone believes for some reason that it is read, but that doesn't mean it was actually read.

1

Unfortunately, it's way more complicated than you believe it is. Fortunately, it's also much simpler. That doesn't make sense, which is what gives people on the autism spectrum such a hard time.

There are dozens of reasons why someone doesn't respond to a message that is marked as read. To list just a few ordered by likelihood if you messaged me:

  • They assumed not answering was equivalent to "Yes", "Uhu", "I see".
  • They were not in the mood for striking up a conversation.
  • They just checked the phone for urgent messages to reply to, their brain's heuristic for finding urgent messages didn't classify yours as urgent, and afterwards forgot about it.
  • They wanted to give you a proper answer, but were too tired or too busy to give one, and afterwards forgot about it.
  • Something smelled burned and they had to run after reading your message.
  • The app incorrectly marked the message as read and they never saw it.
  • They changed their phone number and forgot to let you know.
  • They were pissed off at you and just click your messages away without reading them.

There are clues which allow you to guess which one it is, but the problem is simple because it doesn't matter which one it is. There's a response that's appropriate in all of the cases:

A gentle reminder the next day, a phone call the day after that, and if they don't pick up/answer/call back, a another final reminder a day later.

The form of the reminder depends on the initial message. Something along the lines of:

Did you have a chance to watch the video yet?

Don't send multiple of these, it's considered clingy. One per original message is enough.

If they still don't respond and you really want to reach them, the phone call goes along the lines of:

Hey, you have time to talk? You haven't been in chat for a while so I wanted to see if you're ok.

You can't use this too often or you'll be seen as clingy. Rule of thumb, no more than once a month, ideally less than once a year per person. This call is the point where the 2 of you work out the misunderstandings you are worried about if they exist.

If the original message didn't work, they didn't respond to the reminder, didn't pick up your call and didn't call back within a day, you can send a final reminder for important messages. For example:

Hi John, I still need to know if you're attending movie night on Saturday because I need to book the tickets. Let me know today before 6 o'clock if you plan to join us.


Caveat: the above is for casual conversations among friends and acquaintances. It doesn't apply if you're coordinating a group project at school of communicating with colleagues at work.

  • I did use the "You haven't been very chatty lately. Is everything ok?" after 4 days of not hearing from her. I know she quit her job and had asked her about it earlier that day. – traisjames Aug 21 '17 at 23:26
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I think the correct response is to feel comfortable.

  • Comfortable that however they are behaving is okay.
  • Comfortable with your relative degree of importance in their life.
  • Comfortable that you have many other important things in your life to focus your attention on.
  • Comfortable that some time in the future you will reconnect with this person again.
  • Comfortable that sometimes stuff happens outside your control or understanding.

I live in New Zealand and a common idiom we use here is "She'll be right mate!" Someone has written an article on Wikipedia for further information.

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