Ask the Aliens: No Reply


Dear Aliens,

After a more-than-ten-year relationship my friend recently started "ghosting" me: she's stopped returning my texts, my calls, or any other kind of personal contact. We're still technically friends on Facebook, but after years of non-stop banter on each other's posts she's disappeared from my life on social media. I've tried reaching out a few times, to no response. She's acting as if I don’t exist anymore.

I'll admit: I haven't always been the best friend. I've been busy at times, self-involved and not around, but if I ever saw that she was in trouble, if she ever really needed someone to help her just handle, that was when I would step in, I would be there. Now it doesn't matter if I'm around at all or not. She isn't.

Mostly one thing that keeps going through my head: How could she do this? Sometimes it creeps into my head that I'm the one who's responsible, that I deserve to be ignored, and then I feel horrible and wrong and generally want to just shrivel up alone. But then I stop myself and say no, this isn't my fault. But maybe she wants me to think it is and feel that bad about myself? So again I have to ask: How could she?

I think I deserve better. If she wants to end the relationship, I need some kind of closure. And if it's over, I do think she should come out and say so. She is the one who started this. Or ended it, I guess. Is that wrong? Should I just swallow my pride and ask her why she doesn't want to be my friend anymore? Maybe the best thing would be to just reciprocate in kind—act as if she doesn't exist. But I don’t want to do that. Why would I treat a friend that way?

Help!

Unfriended Friend

Dear Unfriended,

I uploaded your question into the computer and fired up the radiotelescope. The informational beam was aimed into the crest of a gravitational wave that sent your question warping onward deep into the cosmos. Someone, I hoped, would answer. Why wouldn't they? You have a really interesting and compelling problem, and like you say about your MIA friend, you deserve a response.

The beam traveled on and all that I could here on Earth was wait. So that’s what I did. I went on the internet, watched a couple of shows, read a little bit, and waited. And waited. The screens didn't show any response from any of the directions I sent your message. Nothing. Eventually, I had to turn off the array of big antennae and accept it: nobody was going to answer.

It's discouraging, I know. When these attempts at communication fail it's tempting to believe that there is no other form of intelligent life in the universe. And that, probably, is the best answer you could have received to your question. No matter how much it hurts to admit it, sometimes, you have to admit to yourself that you're not going to get a response.

I don't know what your friend's problem is, and neither do you. There can be any number of reasons why she isn't feeling you right now. She may just be a jerk. Maybe your own behavior towards your friend has been more harmful than you thought it was. You mention being self-involved and not around, and yet you automatically assume that your friend is ignoring you. Is it possible she is busy too, and just hasn't been able to answer you back? But maybe it is that she just doesn't want to be friends anymore. Whether or not she's being motivated by revenge for you past actions towards her is irrelevant: this isn't the way two friends should act towards each other.

There is a very human quality to wanting to be heard. It is evolutionary: primates don't do well on their own. They get depressed, they waste away. You would be ignoring every instinct in your body to feel like what is happening between you and your friend is okay. It is not. You are right in feeling that you deserve a response—it’s the human thing to feel—but you have to accept that you may never get one.

Humanity wants to be unalone. SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) doesn't get all the funding the program deserves, and yet it is run with the goal of waiting for an answer, any kind of answer from the unknown out there. We feel that we deserve a response. The Voyager record was attached to the Voyager spacecrafts in case they are ever found by alien life-forms. Within the acceptable limits of personification we can bestow upon it, the record is going to continue to talk for us, even if it's battered and bruised, for a billion years to come. When the Earth doesn't exist anymore, it is still going to be asking for a reply.

But we may never get one. Just like you may never get one.

Your friend isn’t an alien, that’s true. The two of you have a history, and as far as we know, there is no other life in the universe outside of our planet. But as far as you’re concerned, you’re floating in the emptiness of space, unconnected to any of the stars you see shining around you. Be like the Earth. Keep the channel open, send your message on a robot that will never come back. Maybe, some day, she'll give you the answer that you've been waiting for.

Ask the Aliens is a regular part of a complete Misreader experience. If you have a question you would like to ask the aliens, email it to misreaderblog at gmail dot com with the phrase “Ask the Aliens” in the subject line.

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