Tech

Why Every Self-Respecting iPhone Owner Should Turn on Read Receipts

Published On 12/20/2016 Published On 12/20/2016
Read receipts
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

I had my iPhone for about three days when, mid-text conversation with a friend, I got this abrupt warning: "BTW your read receipts are on." Newly converted from Android, I had no clue what this meant -- but I continued to receive various iterations of this cryptic text, and to this day I still occasionally do. Not only did I never figure out how to turn them off, I actually got used to them. In fact, I like my read receipts.

For the uninformed, a read receipt is a tiny gray notification that pops up within an iMessage conversation that lets someone know you've opened, and presumably read, their text. Like the "Seen" notification on Facebook Messenger, they make it impossible to claim plausible deniability, so most people don't use them except by accident until a miffed friend tips them off to go adjust their settings. But I for one am a staunch supporter of the read receipt, and encourage its mass adoption as a staple of texting etiquette for grown-ass, self-respecting adults everywhere. Here's why.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Read receipts force you to be an honest, accountable, grown-ass person

Let's say it's Friday night and someone invites me to "catch some fun Estonian rock/fusion music for listenin' and dancin' at around 10pm." Without read receipts, I could quite easily text this person back the following morning with a lie about how I was sleeping, and was just super, super-tired, but totally would've come if I'd seen the message in time.

But with my read receipts on, this person knows I've seen their invitation. Basic decency forces me to reply honestly. "No thanks, I'm just going to eat some dry salad and watch three seasons of Saved by the Bell on Hulu," is a far more honorable answer than the former. If you chronically flake on your friends and often find yourself embroiled in overly complex lies about why you never texted them back, read receipts will force you to buck the heck up.

They also save you time and needless fretting over your response

Lest I look like a total bag of dirt, I have a specific window of time in which I can respond to a text once someone knows I've read it. It's a bit like disarming a bomb; once I open that sucker, I'm on countdown. If I don't take action in a timely manner, I risk offending the recipient, or worse -- looking like a total flippin' loser by hesitating.

This is precisely why most people keep their read receipts off: They like to take their sweet-ass time. Especially when it comes to dating, a perfectly timed buffer between texts with a potential partner makes you seem cool and aloof, and gives the impression that you're mad busy interacting with other people in real life. It's a well-known tactic in the art of seduction, aka gradually convincing someone to let you sleep over every night in the summer because they have central air conditioning and you just have a dang window fan.

Yet it is also a widely known fact that this buffer period of cool aloofness is actually spent meticulously workshopping a response, probably with the help of two to eight friends in a separate group chat. These are foolish games, folks. With rare exception, no one text is worth agonizing over -- no matter who's on the receiving end.

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The person you're texting will be relieved of "are you ignoring me" anxiety

You might assume that I am obsessively vigilant about reading my texts immediately, but see here: If I'm not ready to answer a message, I won't read it until I have the proper time and mindset to respond. If you're the kind of self-respecting adult who doesn't check their phone every five minutes, read receipts come in handy for thwarting off agitated texts like "Hello?" and "Ugh fine" and strings of passive-aggressive emojis. Since I've conditioned all my friends to expect read receipts from me, if they don't see them for a while, they can rest easy knowing that I'm not intentionally ignoring them. I'm probably just busy hanging out with other people, or listening to a sweet podcast, or reading intricate Game of Thrones theories. It's a win for both parties.

It's impossible to ghost

Ghosting is shitty. I've done it though, but that was back when I had an Android. I was a different person then. I had no incentive to send any kind of follow-up text because there was no ethics inspector in the lower-righthand corner of my Samsung Galaxy S text messages to inform me of what a garbage human I was being.

Straightforwardness is a highly underrated virtue. Whether it's simply saying no to a friend I don't want to drink 40 beers with on a Wednesday night, or letting that guy who live-tweeted our date know that I'm not interested in seeing him again, I can't just pretend like I moved to an off-the-grid strawbale home in Michigan. Once again: accountability. 

I want reciprocity, people

Communicating with people in a timely, respectful manner feels good, man. I won't leave people hanging, so the idea is that hopefully people won't leave me hanging either. I don't actually know if this works or not though, because everyone I talk to keeps their read receipts off. Let's change that! To turn your read receipts on for all incoming messages, hit up Settings --> Messages --> toggle on Send Read Receipts. If you have iOS 10 (which you really should by now) you can also turn read receipts on for specific people by going to their contact info and toggling on Send Read Receipts.

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Carrie Dennis works for Thrillist and is trying to be the change she wishes to see in the world. Follow her on Twitter @CarrrieDennnis.

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