If you have an iPhone, you'll understand the sheer stress of waiting for a reply to a text message when all you can see is this:
That little grey bubble with its ellipsis is the worst thing about iMessage.
You simply cannot DEAL with how long the message finally takes to send. The ellipsis is basically saying, "Hey, I've read your message and I'm writing a really long response that will cause shock/sadness/whatever feeling you don't want right now."
In The New York Times this weekend, writer Jessica Bennett claimed her therapist had ordered her to turn off the "typing awareness indicator" for "giving monumental weight to matters of a text message".
The ellipsis bubble stems from the '90s dial-up internet era, Bennett said. In those good old days, we received an alert to say when someone was online and when a message was delivered. In 2005, Blackberry introduced an alert for "(name) is typing..." to BBM, and a few years later, Apple introduced the dreaded "..." bubble.
Our feelings for the "..." bubble are also due to our innate sense of curiosity. Paul Dourish, a professor who studies the intersection of technology and society at the University of California, told Bennett: "The awareness indicator as implemented on the iPhone is a curious beast – it conveys that something is being done, but it won't say what. It's curiously coy."
Ever since then, we've all had to sit and glare at our screens waiting impatiently for that all-important message to be received, only to find it's an emoji of a ghost or just the letter "k".
David Auerbach, the inventor of the "..." bubble, said the reason we hate the bubble so much is that it builds anticipation, then only disappoints us when we receive a banal response.
Auerbach would rather know what the other person were typing as they typed it.
In a piece for Slate, he wrote: "If there's any unease associated with the typing indicator, it's not from the added immediacy per se, but a lack of enough immediacy. It tells you that something is going on, but leaves you to wonder what it is."
In the meantime, let's all just chill out over the waiting-for-a-text thing. Instead, you can just mess with people and send them this instead:
Rossalyn Warren is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rossalyn Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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