Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Why do I somehow get hurt when I get “seen-zoned” on Facebook? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
The little green dot is so inviting. It’s like a welcome sign calling you off of a long, unfamiliar road and into a Motel 6: “Come on in. We’ll leave the light on for you.”
You log onto Facebook in the morning and there it is: a green dot by the name of your best friend in kindergarten and a dot by the name of the person who secretaries for your dentist. A dot sits innocently next to the name of your secret high school crush and lets you know he’s logged in. A whole row of green dots invites you to chat up people you haven’t actually ever talked to in person or even really seen in years.
You courageously click on your crush’s name and type a nerve-wracking “Hey, how’s it going?” You wait for the little check mark to appear, the one that tells you that the person that you want to acknowledge you has actually read your message. And then you wait again. You check your Facebook over and over. You sneak peeks on your phone at work. You double check to see that the little check mark has actually appeared.
You go from thinking: “Maybe they’re just busy” to “Why aren’t they responding?” and after a day or two or even a week, it becomes clear. They’re not going to respond. They’ve seen your message and they’re leaving it unanswered like a high-five left hanging in the air. You’ve been seen-zoned.
Oh, it hurts, but odds are, it’s not as personal as you think it is.
I’m guilty of the seen zone. At work, I do the illicit cell phone Facebook check. Sometimes, at four in the morning when I can’t sleep, I grab my phone, look at the time in disbelief, and check my Facebook messages. I fall asleep to the glow of memes and when I wake up – like when I get off of work – it’s like the whole thing never happened. Yes, I “saw” your message, but if it wasn’t more substantial than a simple “hello” or if you’re someone I can’t immediately put a face to, it’s possible that I won’t remember it. After all, life with all its responsibilities and surprises gets in the way.
Is it inconsiderate to not respond to a Facebook message immediately? Maybe, but instantaneous response and being able to see who has seen your message and being able to log onto a forum for a matter of mere seconds before your boss catches you (which is also enough time for someone to see the little green dot by your name and attempt to say hello to you) is a whole new line being drawn on the etiquette frontier.
So, what do you do in a case like this? Try texting the person later: “Hey, I don’t know if you saw my message earlier, but….” Yes, it’s a little white lie, but it’s one that will smoothly allow you to repeat what you wanted the other person to respond to without instantly putting that person on the defense. Basically, it says what you wanted to say all along without the implied “Hey, I know you saw my message. Why didn’t you respond? Is my time not valuable? Am I not good enough for you? Why don’t you looooove me?”
If it turns out that this isn’t actually someone you know well enough to text or call, then I’m not so sure you should be hurt over their not responding to a message on a social media platform where people have online friends that number in the hundreds but real life friends that number in the 10’s. Seeing someone’s Facebook status on the daily can lead to a false sense of familiarity that you wouldn’t have if you saw them just walking down the street. It’s important to cultivate relationships in the “real” world, not just the virtual one. Find people you can interact with in person. It will help eliminate the whole sitting-around-wondering-why-they-haven’t-responded-to-your-message thing, because you’ll be able to just call them and ask.