The Dirty R

The Dirty R is the little green icon in BlackBerry Messenger that shows your message has been read, but you never get a reply. It’s easy to take this personally, depending on the message; “Why are you ignoring me? Was what I said not important? Not interesting? Are you too busy to deal with me? What is it that takes precedent over me?” Sure, those questions might seem like clingy and oversensitive, but they’re entirely natural reactions, especially if your message prompted some kind of reply.

BlackBerry has long been an enabler for the “always on, always connected” lifestyle, and that has drastically changed our expectations for responsiveness. This spans well beyond innocuous chats over BBM, and into corporate employees that are effectively on-call late into the evening thanks to BlackBerry devices. When communicating regularly with people that are equally tied to their phones, a ten minute delay in a response can feel like an eternity.

Read receipt is a feature that has proliferated throughout instant messaging clients across the mobile sphere, and shaping the way everybody deals with instant messages. As we’ve gone over in today’s Talk Mobile conversation, turning off notifications and realizing that expectation doesn’t equate to obligation can help cope with these relatively new situations, but they don’t solve them by any means. Voluntarily unplugging oneself may be a necessity to keep focus, but it also defuses the whole point of instant messaging - we're on the messaging platforms to increase our availability, not decrease it. You can keep your own expectations for responsiveness lower and reasonable, but all you’re doing there is hoping that others reciprocate.

How do you guys deal with the Dirty R? Do you skip reading your BBM messages to avoid leaving one? Do you keep needling people for a response when they give you one? How much will BBM going cross-platform affect people’s expectations for responsiveness? Is there a way read receipts could be tweaked to avoid this issue altogether?