Here’s Why You Care So Much About Being Left on Read

Snapchat is a fun way to communicate, but the emotional effects can be insane.

Photo by Teahub —

September 7, 2013. The date my Snapchat was born. I was at a friend’s house working on a project and he kept persuading me to add that yellow ghost to my phone. I broke down and decided to try it out. Typically, I’d be the last of my friends to download the new shiny social media app or game. Not this time! It was a great concept! Sending a snap of yourself and then placing your chat over it? Revolutionary! At first, I used this just to send people pictures of my cat and random items around my house like my baseball photos on the fridge.

7 years in the future, that yellow ghost still stands proudly in my phone, though now organized in folders. Smart right? Yes, I’m a smartphone folder guy. This simple communication app has transformed into something so much more than 2013 Snapchat.

It’s still the same mixed media communication app, but has grown, been gutted, rebuilt, destroyed, and polished many times. Snapchat now offers a superstore of features. From 24 hour disappearing stories, group chat across different platforms, shows and subscriptions, and of course our beloved dog filter.

At the core of Snapchat is a feature that tells you when someone has opened your snap and vice versa. This is super useful (and was also sort of creepy tech in 2013) as you can win any “I didn’t see it argument” with a simple “I know you saw it because you opened it.”

Fast forward 7 years later and now “you left me on read” has become a huge part of our society, even possibly a pandemic. This pandemic has created a mental illness I call, “caring too much.” Caring too much can lead to over thinking which can lead to horrible consequences for both the sender and receiver.

Let’s play out a typical situation that occurs quite often. You meet an awesome person on campus or at a coffee shop, and you start chatting, you get their snap, and add each other, the conversation continues. You talk back and for a week or so and then they suddenly leave you on open. You start to question if you did anything wrong and immediately blame yourself for saying or doing something wrong. You question everything and every interaction you’ve had with this person. Severe overthinking. This overthinking might lead you into a brief period of anxiety or depression. Yeah. All because of those few pixels that create that little outline of an arrow with an “opened” next to it.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some science to back it up. Katherine Wu, a graduate student at Harvard University wrote an article proving this. There are 7 primary chemicals your brain releases during love. I’m just going to talk about 5 of them because of the nature of the topic.

When in the early stages of “talking” to someone your brain does a crazy thing and begins to create more testosterone and estrogen when that person sends you a snap, you talk about them, or someone shows you a picture of them. Isn’t that funny? That pumping in your heart and sweaty palms when you think of them? Also due to the increase of those chemicals. Yes, both males and females have testosterone and estrogen, but testosterone is more prevalent in males, while estrogen in more prevalent in females.

As you two become closer, more dopamine and norepinephrine are released into your body when talking to them. These two chemicals energize us and make us even more excited to see them in person or receive a snapchat from them. Dopamine is also the reward or “feel good” chemical so whenever you do something that your body perceives as good or pleasurable, this is released, which explains why you get happy and my even smile when you receive a snap from said person.

Serotonin is another chemical that takes parts in your brain when in the taking stage or in love. Rather than increase, your serotonin levels will actually decrease. This can cause you to eat more or less and begin to have mood swings due to the fluctuating levels of serotonin. Some other effects of bouncing levels of serotonin are your body may heal wounds slower or you may feel more or less nauseous.

Hmmm. So now let’s add this all up together. When you first meet said person, your testosterone and estrogen levels will likely rise. As you are talking more and see each other more, your dopamine and norepinephrine levels will rise, while your serotonin levels drop. Your body and brain become used to the feeling of love and these chemicals.

This would all explain when you see that snap was just “opened.” Your brain chemistry rapidly changes, and you have even less serotonin so your body cannot regulate anxiety and reduce depression. So, this would explain those feelings which may cause you to overthink and fall into a deep mental hole or funk.

Great! So how do we prevent this? Simple… Well not at first. I have experienced this same situation many times and each time it hurts less. It can be difficult to deal with your own feelings. So, by being in touch with your own emotions is a great first step to overcoming this. I think the best way to overcome this is to use a few simple steps. Be in touch with your emotion, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and work with your brain to recover from a rejection.

Being in touch with your emotions is key to dealing with a situation such as this, and even life. When I went to college, I was surprised how many people aren’t sure how they feel about a potential partner or friend, and that’s totally ok! Sometimes we need time to process the information and make a well thought out emotional decision. The best way to keep in touch with your emotions is to go over the day in your head before bed and think about how you felt toward certain situations. Be careful with this however, as it can lead to over thinking so don’t dwell on one situation for too long.

Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes gives you another perspective on how you are talking and interacting with them. If you were snapping them and they were on vacation, they may have just boarded a plane, fallen asleep, could be at a show or one of any hundreds of possibilities. Maybe they were at home and were asked to do something for someone and totally forgot, maybe a surprise visitor. The point of this is if left on opened, it’s probably not your fault and most likely not the end of your conversation. Maybe they really did lose interest, which in your case is maybe nothing you have done, but they should be able to communicate to you their feelings as well, or this potential relationship would not have gone very far.

After stepping out of their shoes, work with your brain to understand your feelings. Your conscience thoughts can be more powerful than your subconscious thoughts. This goes back to my first point of being in touch with your emotions, but you can really make yourself feel any emotion you want. Your brain is extremely powerful so you should use it to help you understand your emotions, but never allow it to tell you how you should feel.

The point of this is to show how a simple act of opening a snap without responding it can make someone tumble into a pit of emotions. On the flip side, just because we see that our snap was opened, does not mean the person we were talking to lost feelings.

Communication has changed so much from 10 years ago and it’s only going to evolve from here. We need to be ready for the ever-changing world of social media, but also need to protect ourselves emotionally and remember that our parents didn’t obsess over being left on opened for a few minutes. There are many more important things in life than being left on open.




College Student. Coffee Lover. Writes about Leadership, Business, and Data Science.

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