Modern communications have brought an unprecedented amount of transparency to the way we talk to one another. This transparency can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to know for sure that your boss got the text about you needing a day off…but it’s not so great when the boss knows that you got her text telling you to come in Saturday morning. There is great satisfaction from knowing a message has been delivered, but the flipside is that the technology opens up the possibility of overthinking about people’s responses to your messages. She got the text an hour ago – why hasn’t she answered? Some communication experts suggest turning off your read receipt features altogether – can you tell whether your correspondents have done that on their end? Can you tell if someone turned their read receipts off?
The answer is that it depends on what communication app you are using. Most messaging apps have some kind of delivery and read receipt but they all work differently. In this article I’ll go over some of the most popular platforms and discuss how they handle read receipts. I’ll also discuss the reasons communication experts suggest turning off read receipts.
Most major messaging platforms feature some capability for read receipts in 2019, but not all of them make it easy to turn them off—or to tell if someone has turned them off on their end. Here’s how each major messaging platform works in 2019.
iMessage makes things simple. It too enables read receipts by default but has the capacity to turn them off. If you send via IMessage to another iPhone, you will see the blue bubble in the chat window. Underneath you will see the status, Sent, Delivered, Read.
If the bubble is green, it means the recipient isn’t on iPhone which means read receipts might not work. If both bubbles are blue and the status stays at Delivered, they may have turned read receipts off.
(Want to know how to turn your read receipts on or off in iPhone? Check out our tutorial article on read receipt settings for iPhone.)
If your phone doesn’t support RCS (and it probably doesn’t), you’re probably using basic SMS through Messages on Android, which means that you won’t be able to view and use read receipts. However, Google is finally taking RCS into their own hands from the carriers, so over the next several months, you may receive a notification regarding “Chat” services being enabled on your phone. Once you have Chat (Google’s own marketing name for RCS), you’ll finally be able to view typing indicators and read receipts with those who also have RCS enabled on their phone.
Read receipts can be disabled within the Chat settings in Messages. If someone has read receipts disabled, the checks won’t appear within the app.
Signal shows status messages by default, although you can turn it off if you wish. A single check mark shows the message was received by the Signal server. Two check marks means it has been delivered to the recipient. When those two check marks turn blue, it means the recipient has read your message.
If the check marks don’t turn blue, they may have turned read receipts off.
WhatsApp also uses the check mark system to show message status. Like Signal, you can also turn off read receipts if you want to. One gray check mark means your message was sent. Two gray check marks means it was delivered. Two blue check marks means the message has been read. You can press and hold the message to see what time it was read if you really need to.
If the two check marks stay gray, the recipient may have turned read receipts off.
Facebook Messenger works in much the same way as these others. Read receipts on by default but can be turned off. Instead of check marks, Facebook Messenger uses circles. A blue circle means your message is being sent. A blue circle with a check mark means it has been successfully sent. A filled blue circle with a check mark means it has been delivered. A profile pic under the message means it has been read.
If that profile picture doesn’t appear, the recipient may have turned read receipts off.
If you to avoid people knowing that you’ve gotten their message, read our article on turning off read receipts in Messenger.
Telegram also provides read receipts by default and allows you to turn them off if you want. A single green check mark means the message has been received. Two green check marks means your message has been read.
If you don’t see that second green check mark, the recipient may have turned read receipts off.
Instagram DMs have a very simple read receipt system. If your message has been seen, the word “Seen” appears beneath the message. If you’re in a conversation with multiple people, then an eye icon along with the Instagram name of the person who has seen your message appears.
If you don’t see the “Seen” text or the eye icon, the recipient may have turned read receipts off.
On Snapchat, when your message reaches your correspondent’s inbox, the word “Delivered” will appear on the app. Once they’ve actually opened the message, it will read “Opened”.
Snapchat doesn’t allow you to disable the ability to see if a Snap or a message is open, so if you don’t want to use a platform with read receipts, don’t use Snapchat. On the other hand, if you want to communicate with someone who doesn’t like read receipts but does have a Snapchat, you’ll know for sure when they opened your message within Snapchat.
Bumble’s read receipts can be tricky, so we’ve devoted an entire article to looking at them. Read our tutorial for a full discussion of read receipts in Bumble.
Like Bumble, Tinder’s chat can be a bit complicated. For information on how Tinder handles read receipts, check out our tutorial article about read receipts in Tinder.
To learn about read receipts on LinkedIn, see our tutorial article about how to tell whether someone read your message in LinkedIn.
The great read receipt debate
There is actually a vigorous debate about read receipts and whether it is better to use them or turn them off. Both sides of the argument have credible reasons for their stance and it is often genuinely difficult to choose one side over the other.
The case for using read receipts
Read receipts are useful tools that reassure you that your message has been read. They verify delivery and set your mind at ease. They hold you accountable for replying and maintaining dialog with the other person. They also encourage us to maintain relationships with other people and dissuades us from going hermit and not interacting with others.
The main case for using read receipts is the elimination of uncertainty. You know your message has been read and digested. You know it didn’t get lost. You know the other person has read your message and therefore will not be uncertain about whether it arrived or not. For some people, this uncertainty can bring about serious anxiety which can be avoided by using read receipts.
The case for turning read receipts off
The case for turning read receipts off is a simple one. It stops you being a prisoner to your phone and to other’s needs. Having your every move followed, watched and analyzed by someone is not just creepy, it’s unpleasant. The accountability point made above also works against using read receipts. It makes you feel as though you have to reply even if it isn’t convenient. That you have to say something even if it doesn’t mean anything to stop the other person feeling anxious.
In other words, read receipts makes you put someone else’s needs above your own. In an ideal world, your needs would be equal to others but in this instance they would be subject to that other. You should be able to reply when you want, how you want rather than beholden to a little check mark.
Real life happens and you should not feel beholden to others just because you may not want to be wedded to your phone every second of the day. If the person knows you, they will know you won’t ignore them. If they know you well, they will know your attitude to your phone and to not using read receipts. They should be able to work with that.
Whichever side of the debate you’re on, that simplest of message settings has quite an impact on our lives. Which side of the argument do you sit on? Tell us your opinion below!