In an always-on world, it’s useful to be able to stay connected to friends and family no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
WhatsApp makes that easy, but it also poses a problem: what if you don’t want to reply to all your texts as soon as you get them? What if you want to be able to stay in touch with people occasionally, without navigating the minefield of those blue ticks.
After all, haven’t we all forgotten to reply? Haven’t we read the message in a 30-second gap – at the bus stop, in a queue, waiting for a partner to get back from the bathroom – only to get distracted before being able to respond?
There is a solution: turn off the damn read receipts.
Without those ticks turning blue, your needy correspondents will stop assuming “they’re ignoring me because they hate me” and start assuming “oh they must not be checking their phone because they’re doing something important”.
Who knows, you might even be doing something important. Here’s how to get away with it.
Turn off your read receipts
This is the easy part:
Go to Settings -> Account -> Privacy and then simply untick the “Read Receipts” box.
This will instantly remove the feature from any individual conversation you’re having. Message from your boss asking you to cover a shift on short notice? They’ll never know you saw it.
There are limitations, however. WhatsApp won’t let you turn off read receipts for the group chat – although the ticks only turn blue when everyone in the whole group has read the message, so it’s less obvious to the sender if you’re ignoring them.
Hide your ‘last seen’ status
It wasn’t that long ago that people were totally uncontactable if they weren’t sitting beside their house phone and they hadn’t told you where they were going to be.
WhatsApp’s default settings lead to the opposite situation: anyone you’ve ever chatted with can tell when you’ve last been browsing your messages.
But the app does let you do something about it: Settings -> Account -> Privacy -> Last Seen.
Set it to “Nobody”, and nobody will know when you last scrolled through your messages. Why do they need to know?
Turn off notifications for dull group chats
Not all group chats are created equal. Some contain vital banter about fantasy football or holiday plans. But others contain boring stuff, like your friends bragging about fantasy football, or holiday plans for holidays you probably aren’t going on.
WhatsApp has an inbuilt solution: the mute button. Group Info -> Mute.
If you do want to hear from all of your groups, but need a way to triage the information landing in your inbox, try out custom notifications:
This is found in Group Info -> Custom Notifications.
Whether it’s a surprise party, a family news group or a betting tips group you really don’t want to miss, you can assign it a different message tone so you know when you really do need to pick up the phone.
Skip the group chat updates you don’t want
This is one for iPhone users – if you’ve got 100 unread messages and you just know you don’t want to read them, you can swipe left on the chat in question and simply mark the messages as “read”.
This won’t turn off notifications forever, but it’s a way to satisfy the person inside you who demands a clear home screen.
The opposite is also possible: mark a conversation as unread to make sure you go back to it when you have more time.
On Android phones, click and hold on the chat, then click the menu and hit “Mark As Read/Unread” to achieve the same effect.
Turn off preview
Texting back and forth in WhatsApp, it’s easy to fall into a private language with a friend, peppering in-jokes amongst the chatter about matters serious and frivolous.
It’s not so fun when a strange-sounding message pops up on screen at work.
Luckily, it’s possible to turn off message previews in Settings.
Go to Notifications and turn off “Show Preview” if you’ve got a reason to have your phone face up on the table – but a better reason to keep your correspondence to yourself.