The way we interact with each other has changed and taken many faces in the passing of time. Cavemen wrote on walls and used different sounds that would seem unfathomable to us but somehow made sense to them. Then, with the advent of language we started getting better at this thing called communication. We learned how to express emotions, we came up with new words if there weren't one to express certain emotions and then we branched out to meet and greets, writing letters, telegram (not the messaging app) etc. However, time was the real problem there and because communication took time and patience people were diligently active to communicate with each other because they had no idea when they'll hear from the other person again. While all of those modes were effective enough, the modern ways of communication is in many ways far more convenient and less time consuming. However, convenience comes at a price.
Which brings us to the ethics of conversing with a person online – how accountable are we to the people we talk to on a daily basis and whether we should take into consideration the emotional labour it takes on both sides to continue a conversation. The obvious answer would be yes, that given we are constantly accountable to each other for minor needs. For people to actually care enough to cater to our needs, we need to put in the effort. But if we consider our circumstances and emotions, we rarely make the trade-off. The topic of seenzoning or un-seenzoning on social media has often been seen to be at discourse. Mostly concerning the points of which is ruder and whether one should do it under certain contexts.
Before going to the greater discussion let's delve into what the terms mean. Seenzoning is basically when you send a text to a person and the person on the other end sees the text but does not reply back. Un-seenzoning is basically when you've sent a text to a person and they haven't replied or even seen the text. Now we know why seenzoning seems rude but what makes unseen zoning rude?
Well, basically when you see the person who didn't see the text is actively sharing random cat memes but isn't replying to you asking if he's made his share of the slides for a presentation. Majorly uncool, right? Well yes, but these methods can be used effectively on the flipside to send a message without actually sending one, and there are a few generalised grounds where it can be considered okay.
Let's start off with seenzoning. When is it okay? Well probably under a context where you're really trying to make the person you're talking to take a hint. Here's a few contexts – someone tries to get favours from you persistently and you don't want to go through the ordeal of saying no and explaining to them why it isn't okay and that's fair because if the person had the conscience they wouldn't be persistent in the first place, right? Or in a situation where a guy/girl is being flirtatious with you and you're clearly uncomfortable and want the person to take a hint. The other common instance is where you can clearly foresee that the conversation won't extend beyond a certain extent or you don't wish to continue the relationship with the person beyond a certain level of intimacy. In those instances, the only pathway to maintain that modality of conduct is to seenzone.
When is it not okay? Well, typically in a circumstance where you have a work relationship with someone and you have work assigned, when you can clearly see a person has a completely different interpretation of your relationship with them, yet without providing a direct message you let it slide under seenzone – this instance is particularly problematic given in many ways you might rob the individual of the emotional closure they'd get knowing why you're not interested and make them assume certain perceptions about them.
Now un-seenzoning falls under the similar lines of seenzoning but the only difference being you think you're being less rude by doing so. But that is not always the case. Un-seenzoning can be a particularly important tool if you do it right. Just make sure to not post on Facebook or other social media handles till you eventually reply, or until enough time has passed.
In essence you can't really distinguish which will hurt one more than the other and sometimes we opt into seenzoning or un-seenzoning on the basis of the emotional state we're in and the emotional labour it requires to reply. However certain modes of conduct need to be maintained because no one wants to deal with an individual who's always unresponsive.
Hopefully now, you know what to do.
Nazifa is a twelve year old trapped in a twenty year old body, who is afraid of the dark and believes melted cheese is the solution to all of life's problems. Send help at firstname.lastname@example.org