This is more of a narrowly constructed and certainly not data-driven observation, and I admit at the front that I am just as much a part of the problem as the next node, but I am seeing in my own streams of communications more dropped connections all the time.
Sure, in the days of cards and letters, the receipt of a warm letter lead to the reflex of a reply, and carrying the letter writing modes of conduct into the first years, decade of electronic mail, there was a similar pattern. I wrote, you replied, I replied, you replied, and it ended at some mutually understood point when there was nothing more to say.
I wonder what was the recognition part that this had been reached? Does it just happen more quickly now?
Of course now we have all these different streams of communication beyond just email (and just beyond one e-mail account) with status messaging in twitter/facebook/ et al, commenting on blogs/flickr/youtube, et al, instant messaging everywhere. Not only more streams, but more volume, so its not surprising things go un-replied.
I lose track of them once the list rolls down past the fold of my Gmail inbox, despite my lukewarm efforts to move things out, move to an “actionable” folder (where they are allowed to gather dust free of GTD guilt).
In the last few months, twice I’ve either gotten or made a connection with friends from more than 25 years ago, from an age before there was an e-anything (neither involved Facebook, I am not sure why I am writing that as a disclaimer). Both times the pattern was the same, one round of “this is my life now” and my reply…. and nothing. I am starting to wonder if in e-mail there is an equivalent of bad breath.
I’ve also had more than enough professional communications that required the extra “did you get my message” to elicit a response. And I know I have also been on the guilty end myself of dropping the ball.
Perhaps we just shrug and say, “That’s how it is.” I’ve heard Biz Stone rather articulately describe twitter as removing the obligation of the reply pattern we know from e-mail.
Call me old fashioned, but replies to a large degree are essential, and make a difference, made more painfully so when you are on the receiving end of a Reply:None rather than the delivery of one. Is the lack of a reply itself a message or just an “Ooops”?
Maybe that’s just the way it is.