There’s nothing quite like that agonizing waiting period after you’ve sent a nerve-wracking text to the person you like. Maybe you put your phone away and avoid checking it for an hour or so. Or maybe you sit there staring at the message, waiting for those gray text bubbles to indicate they’re typing a response. If you get left on read, it’s all too easy to let your brain spiral into worst-case scenarios. Is your crush ignoring you? Is this their way of ghosting? Should you follow up with another text? Should you block them on IG and pretend this whole thing never happened? SOS.
Getting left on read can be confusing and stressful, especially when the person you’ve messaged is someone you’re hoping to date. But before you panic, remember that read receipts don’t necessarily indicate this person is ignoring you. “We live in a world of endless distractions all competing for our attention,” relationship expert Dr. Darcy Sterling tells Elite Daily. “Getting a read receipt does not mean someone actually read your text.” Think of how many times you’ve opened a text while commuting to work, only to forget about it during a busy moment. You might come back to it later, or it may slip your mind entirely. Either way, you didn’t intend to neglect this person, and you’ll respond to them (apologetically) as soon as you remember.
If it’s only been a few hours since your crush read the text, try to stay calm and distract yourself by doing other things. Sterling’s main piece of advice? Wait a full 24 hours before you send a follow-up text. “It’ll be interpreted as you having an independent life, as well as being someone with emotional health [and] self-discipline,” she says. It’s not that you want to come across as aloof — you should never feel pressured to hide your emotions to seem “chill” — but you want to give the person adequate time to respond on their own.
Online dating expert Julie Spira echoes this same suggestion, with the caveat that some texts require a more timely answer. “Sending up a follow-up text works if it’s a time-sensitive deadline, such as grabbing movie tickets for the same day, or if plans need to change,” she advises. “Other than these reasons, I recommend waiting 24 hours before sending another text message.” Hopefully, you’ll end up hearing back from them before that time period is up.
The next day, if you still haven’t gotten a response, Sterling outlines two different ways to follow up tactfully with this person. First, you could change the subject entirely. Or, if you want to address the previous text, you can use humor to deflect any tension. Sterling offers some templates: “I’m guessing your phone broke. Consider this your reminder to reply when you get your new one,” or “Should I assume that you not responding to my text means you want me to send you a dozen more before you do?” It’s okay to be self-deprecating, but Sterling suggests keeping it light. “Do not send the ‘questioning’ reaction on IOS,” she says. “It generally reads as hostility unless you know each other very well.”
In all likelihood, your crush just forgot to respond, and you’ll hear back from them after you send a second text. But if this follow-up text gets left on read for longer than a day or two, it’s probably time to move on. “There’s nothing worse than badgering someone to find out why they suddenly decided to ignore you,” Spira says. “They may be ghosting you or considering other options. Either way, it’s bad for your self-esteem, so I recommend that you start flirting with someone new who isn’t playing texting games.”
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if this is how they’ve chosen to end their contact with you, you’re probably better off letting them go. “You have to trust that either your crush isn’t wild about you or they’re dispassionate [and] slow-to-respond to most things in life,” Sterling says. “Either way, trust that this is how they’ll be throughout any relationship that might develop. You don’t really want to be the oxygen propelling someone else into action forever, do you?”
You may never know why were permanently left on read, especially if you thought things were going well between you. “Perhaps they got the flu and didn’t feel like chatting with anyone, or hopped on a plane to an unknown destination,” Spira says. But ultimately, the reason why doesn’t matter so much. “If this person doesn’t treat you well in the beginning, find someone else who will cherish you both digitally and IRL,” Spira urges. You're a catch, and you’ve got no time for shady texting games. Thank u, next!