Butterfly Effect: Missing Signal(s)

What does it mean when someone texts you first? 

Is it out of necessity because of work? 

Is it out of boredom? 

Is it the burning curiosity you have of someone else? 

And what is the appropriate reaction anyway? 

Do we reply politely?

Do we leave them on read?

Do we block and archive them altogether? 

Or do we keep the conversation going for days, weeks, months, and years before stopping at once? 

Regardless of the reason(s), I am terrible with texting. I either read too much into each text or I somehow arm myself with million assumptions of why someone would text me in the first place. 

Of course, I’m not counting close friends or family members. I know their intentions well enough to not pay attention to my never-ending series of ‘what ifs’ behind their texts. 

As a socially inept person with a debilitating fear of humiliation and rejection, I have formed this habit of forming assumptions and worst-case scenarios out of anyone I have never encountered or have limited interaction(s) with. Even when I know someone, I tend to read into patterns and make hypotheses too quickly, especially if it involves a misunderstanding, arguments, etc. 

And so, my short-sightedness caused me to miss some signal(s) that I received last year from whom I’ll refer to as ‘once a classmate’.

Photo by Nate Smith on Unsplash

“Hii, I’m XX from ABC.”

“Oh hey, XX.”

What was their intention in the first place? Why did they text me first? What brings their attention, their desire to hit up with a casual “Hii”? Why did they choose me out of 50+ people in our unit WhatsApp group? 

Do you want to be friends? Were you testing my responses? Were you bored? 

Tell me why.

I get that It’s normal for people to text a few times– talking about the weather and asking what major are you in and all– before growing disinterested when the conversation seems like it’s heading to nowhere. 

In fact, I’d freak out if I suddenly spilled everything about myself in one night – yes, that occurred to me not too long ago and my reaction permanently left an embarrassing taste ingrained in my mind. I shudder thinking about how I’m bound to meet this person someday on campus, one way or another. Anyways. . .

I shrugged it off at first. Plus, with me being very awkward, I didn’t think a few fleeting texts meant anything serious, let alone when they strike a conversation randomly at 9 PM. 

Thus, my experience was exactly that. It started innocently enough, and it ended respectfully in such a brief period. 

“If we meet on campus one day, that’d be pleasant.” 

There seems to be more going on behind it. Or was it? It sounded logical to bid goodbye that way.

So why can’t I shake it off now? Why now? Did I miss something? What is my gut feeling trying to say about this?

I can’t blame the pandemic for causing me to be this dense at basic texting etiquette(s), right?

And so I am left with the regret that I’ll never know what might happen if I didn’t stop at “You too! And stay safe!”. Had I returned the gesture by texting first, just what would happen back then?

Would a friendship blossom if I kept the conversation going? Or would it turn into something else?


Written by Elly Zulaikha

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