Picture this. It’s a Tuesday night. You run into the friend at the dining hall whose life is permanently in shambles, sometimes because they break up with their boyfriend on the same day that they are diagnosed with a chronic rheumatological disease and sometimes because they have tied their self-esteem to an elusive line of code on a problem set. (My fault for making friends who major in computer science). They finally promise that this is the week you’ll get together. 

You suggest tentative plans for a Thursday dinner in Branford. They nod so enthusiastically that you are worried they’ll sprain their sternocleidomastoid. They tell you they must go but are so excited to catch up soon. They even shout a throwaway “I love you” across the dining hall. They don’t love you. They only love their cold, ungiving soul.

That Thursday morning, you text them to confirm plans. Radio silence. You show up in Branford at 6 p.m. anyway, in the hopes that their phone just died, that they just had a busy day but are still on the way. Twenty-five minutes later, you have given up hope. You eat Thursday dinner alone, less annoyed by eating a solitary meal than the fact that you found yourself encircled by a 15-person freshman friend group at your table, talking about their sophomore Svedka plug and their thrilling plans to go to Edon on the weekend. 

The next morning, they send you a text saying, “So sorry. Been really swamped with a paper this week.” Swamped? Really? I thought all Yale students’ lives were as arid as the plains of Dasht-E-Lut. They, on the other hand, would have you believe even the Atchafalaya Wildlife Refuge pales in comparison to their waterlogged existence. 

We all have friends like this. If you don’t, it’s probably because you are the friend who acts like this. The friend who is impossible to make plans with because of an estimated three-week buffer between texts. The friend who will invite you off-hand to Friday dinner with his parents but conveniently forget to respond to your text inquiring about the time. And of course, the friend whose lab report has regularly left them in such a vulnerable state, that the thought of responding to your WhatsApp always seems traumatic.

In startlingly few cases, such behavior can be chalked up to an aversion to technology. These friends cannot be blamed. They would probably be better off in Nottingham in 1811, railing against the automation of textile manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. Instead, they probably held off on downloading Instagram till their sophomore fall. 

But in most cases, the word self-absorption is not that far from the truth. Or perhaps I mean self-aggrandizement — the sense that your extracurriculars and Canvas discussion posts are so uniquely important and unduly burdensome that their existence justifies poor behavior towards your friends. 

“I’m sorry. I just needed to protect my peace this week.” Oh, I’m so sorry. I had no idea that I was your Napoleon, grandstanding at the gates of Moscow, threatening to ravage your city and plunge you into wartime with my singular iMessage.  

“I’m so sorry. I just needed to set boundaries for myself this week.” Oh, I’m so sorry. I had no idea I was an ameboid, pathogenic microorganism, stuck to your skin and clogging your oily pores — leaving you without a second of respite from my asphyxiating proximity. 

“I’m so sorry. I just needed to be with myself” Oh, I’m so sorry. I had no idea that I was a black hole, threatening to suck you into my gravitational orbit with such ferocity that I tear you away from your very limbs. 

“I’m so sorry. My pet turtle recently died.” Okay, I can let that one slide. That makes me very sad. 

Do not take my facetiousness to mean I expect friends to drop everything to fulfill their social obligations or even that such a minor thing as dinner plans in a dining hall cannot be flexible at the last-minute. Scatter-brained as I am, I am regularly guilty of changing plans, but I would never do so without notification.

What I bemoan is a culture of non-responsiveness. In how many cases does your unresponsive friend genuinely miss seeing your time-sensitive text? And in how many cases do they see it and not think it important to respond until they deign it convenient for them?

It seems unnecessary to caveat that there are valid emergencies and overwhelming stretches of time that deprioritize responding to your friend’s text about bottomless brunch. But then there are some people whose life is in such a perennial state of emergency that you can’t help but begin to suspect they are living through the emergency of narcissism. Moreover, there is a difference in timelines between an offhand summer text saying “what’s up” and a text that actually affects your friend’s ability to schedule their life. 

It’s not that hard. If you get a text when you’re busy, say, “Hey! Really busy so will respond  later in the week.” If that’s too hard, drop the vowels: “Hy! Rlly bsy wll rspnd ltr ths wk.” If you forget, at least they’ll feel comfortable bumping you. And if you’re truly not feeling up to meeting up, I can’t think of a friend who wouldn’t be understanding if you just said that — and offer some remote support. If you’re feeling proactive, let your friends know when not to expect too much — “next week will be very stressful with tech week for my show so I have no idea if I’m going to be able to plan much.” Just don’t leave your friends hanging, like a sad, lonely high five that will never find its soulmate. 

Some of you might call this entitled. Some of you might yell and stomp your feet and shriek that nobody is entitled to your time or mental energy, especially when you need to focus on your deeply important pursuits like reading Derrida. That some of you need to get off TikTok. 

Etiquette is not entitlement. You do not have a selective claim to courtesy. Otherwise, what kind of society are we to live in? If we are truly not entitled to etiquette, then let us fulfill Rousseau’s vision of a utopian state of nature. Let us wander about as atomized individuals with no social interactions, having casual, unprotected coitus that may result in the birth of children without the pressure of long-term relationships between parents. Even if we miss out on the joys of human connection, at least you can read “Specters of Marx” or “The New Yorker” without being disturbed by a friend.

Just don’t take your friends’ interest in your lives and their invitations for granted. Because if they’re anything like me, the fourth time you do, they’ll just stop inviting. 

PRADZ SAPRE is a senior in Benjamin Franklin College majoring in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry and the Humanities. He is the News’ current Editorial Column Editor. His fortnightly column “Growing pains” encapsulates the difficulties of a metaphorical “growing up” within the course of a lifetime at Yale. He can be reached at pradz.sapre@yale.edu

Pradz Sapre is a senior in Benjamin Franklin College majoring in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry and the Humanities. His fortnightly column “Growing pains” encapsulates the difficulties of a metaphorical “growing up” within the course of a lifetime at Yale. He can be reached at pradz.sapre@yale.edu