Turn on message read receipts, you cowards

One of the biggest benefits of modern messaging systems is the ability to send more than just basic text chats back and forth. On top of high-resolution media, audio clips, huge groups, reactions and more, one of the biggest revelations has been delivery and read receipts for messages. Press send, and you immediately know whether the message was actually delivered at the other person's device. Watch for a bit longer, and you know that they've actually seen the message.

But message read receipts have turned into a point of contention for some. Most chat apps let you turn off read receipts, and some people care enough to do so. I suppose I understand why you may want to turn off read receipts, to preserve some semblance of "privacy" perhaps, but I also know it's a rather selfish and annoying trend that frankly just makes you seem rude in exchange for no actual benefit.

I really want you to turn back on your read receipts, for everyone's sake.

Not every message needs a reply or acknowledgement. Often all I need is to know you saw it.

Not every message needs a reply or acknowledgement. When I send a message letting you know I'm on my way and I'm going to be 10 minutes late, I don't need a "K" or "thanks for letting me know" or emoji response — I just need to know that you saw the message. You can convey a lot by just reading a message and not replying. You're of course confirming that you saw it, which is helpful, but at the same time letting them know that a reply will likely be coming later. A read receipt being sent isn't an obligation of a reply or some sort of contract — to the contrary, it's really buying you more time to send an actual reply with substance rather than one quick message to let them know you saw it.

Read receipts also add an extra element of personality to an otherwise emotionless conversation medium. It's no different than what emoji, stickers and media bring to a text chat — it's another little reminder that you're talking to a person and not an app. When you're talking to someone in person, there are ways to acknowledge you're listening without saying something — read receipts attempt to provide the same function over a text chat.

Turning off read receipts just makes you seem rude, with no actual benefit in return.

Wanting read receipts doesn't mean you're snooping or anything nefarious is going on. You are, after all, choosing to have a text conversation with someone in the first place. If you can't handle the social implications of someone knowing that you saw their message, maybe you should reconsider whether this conversation should be happening at all. And for as much anxiety as seeing a read receipt and not receiving a reply can be, you're putting yourself through that sort of anxiety for every message you send instead. Nobody wins.

Thankfully, most apps also make the choice to turn off read reciepts a unilateral setting, meaning you stop receiving read receipts from others as well. Sometimes that can be enough to make people second-guess their decision. But if it isn't, and you're still hiding behind some sort of thin veil of privacy you think you're gaining by turning off read receipts, I urge you to reconsider — you're just annoying everyone, and we'd all appreciate if you turned your read receipts back on.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.