The pile of unopened emails grows higher, as do the number of unread texts. It seems like a symptom of global exhaustion from the pandemic. In fact, the average American now has 47 unread text messages and 1,602 unopened emails, according to The Guardian.

“Even during social distancing it’s possible to exhaust your social energy, especially if you’re an introvert. Digital communication is fantastic for staying connected in some ways — imagine this pandemic but with no internet! — but it takes up social energy without giving us things like touch or shared experiences that we can only have in person,” said Aimee Daramus, per Well and Good.

“You might be getting socially exhausted, just like you might at a party but even more so because of the lack of physical sensation.”

Is it rude not to reply to a text or email?

It is possible that communicating digitally may be a tougher load to carry as individuals make constant real-time decisions on what messages are top priority and what aren’t. That means sorting through Slack messages, work emails, and personal communication.

This state of “cognitive overload” makes it hard to process information, leaving individuals in a state of confusion and stress.

On one hand, it’s rude to ignore emails as it can make people look unorganized, undependable and lazy, according to Adam Grant’s opinion column in The New York Times.

But, in hopes of being polite, are we neglecting our own mental health by giving into the cognitive overload?

Daniel Post Senning, from the Emily Post Institute, which offers advice and training on good manners, said that when our phone rings, we’re under no obligation to answer it. “You have to be a civil and decent person,” Senning said, per The Economic Times, “but you don’t have to give your time and attention to everyone who asks for it.”

The rules of talking via text

Digital communication isn’t the same as an in-person conversation either and hence, requires a new set of rules.

“It might seem rude in the moment not to say something, as in an in-person conversation it can feel abrupt to not finalize an exchange,” Senning explained. “But in the context of digital communication, the sender often actually prefers avoiding the receipt of additional messages when possible.”

In this era where work blends into home, maybe it is OK to not reply during a family dinner or while exercising or while simply doing nothing.