How the iPhone changed passive-aggression

The iPhone is 10 years old, which means, if I am being totally honest with you, that I do not remember a time in which it didn’t exist. However, I do remember a time in which I didn’t have one! In the summer of 2014, I moved to New York City for an internship at a now-defunct literary magazine run out of an apartment in Washington Heights, and I still had a generic, sliding camera phone. I looked up directions to any place that I needed to go on Google Maps on my laptop before I left the house and took photos of them.

To be honest, my life was fine. Who cares? If you get a little lost in New York City, whatever. It’s like being in a Lorde song or a 30-minute dramedy, and afterwards maybe you have a good story. My life now — iPhone included — doesn’t involve extreme time-wasters such as walking 45 blocks to get on a train, but it does involve something worse: a lot more passive-aggression. It’s hard to believe I used to wander around this city, subway map in hand, completely unaware that people were using sleek little rectangles to absolutely bludgeon each other with subtle but pointed cruelties.

Passive-aggression is horrible to experience and a constant temptation to dole out, and the little device that’s 10 years old this week is responsible for many of the ways we do both in the modern age.

Read receipts

Perhaps the most trivially controversial invention of this generation, aside from the selfie stick, which only truly offends people who are innately miserable and rude, is iMessage’s automatically enabled “read receipts.” If you don’t disable read receipts on your iPhone, as you know, it allows any person who sends you a text to see exactly when you read it. If human beings were basically good and generally respected each other, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. You would read the text and then you would respond to the text and the receipt would be useless anyway because your response would signal that you had read the text. But human beings are not basically good and, they have no respect at all, so now we have the term “leaving me on read,” which means someone is ignoring you and wants you to know it. It doesn’t feel good.

Even in relationships and friendships that are comfortable and secure, it’s easy to make the mental leap from “they didn’t respond because they’re doing something” to “they didn’t respond because they’re sick of me.”

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