Opinion: Read receipts - an unused treasure of iMessage

If you have an iPhone, you may (or may not) have noticed a particularly revolutionary phenomenon that is designed to enhance the conversation you have between you and your friends. Of course, I am talking about a largely unused and somewhat taboo facet of the little blue messages that you send and receive via iMessage.

For most of you, this is old news. For those who are new to the world of the iPhone, let me give you a brief back story. Apple created “iMessage” to be a system similar to Black Berry Messaging (BBM), which only operates with other Apple devices. It allows you to use Wireless Internet or 3G to communicate with other iPhone users seamlessly and effortlessly. It also includes a few added features designed to enhance the ebb and flow of conversation, namely the read receipt.

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Screenshot by Mason Lende/Gavel Media


In fact the biggest problem with iMessage is that most people do not use that impressive feature. For those of you unfamiliar with iPhone or iMessage, read receipts are similar to the “seen” notifications in the Facebook chat. They allow the sender to see when his or her message has been read. However, iPhone allows you to choose whether or not you have them on, and most people decide to turn them off.

If you are one of the people who has them turned off, this thought may never have crossed your mind. Yet if you happen to have yours turned on, you are probably used to receiving comments about your read receipts. In fact, you’ve probably had to defend your decision on more than one occasion. Allow me to reaffirm that you have made the correct choice and, for the few of you who use them, you are actually using iMessage as it was intended.

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Screenshot by Mason Lende/Gavel Media

A concerned friend once pulled me aside and quietly informed me that I had my read receipts turned on. Thinking that I had accidentally turned them on like most people, she informed me that it may be dangerous in case I don’t answer my messages immediately or frequently ignore people. Having made the conscious decision to turn them on in the first place, I decided that if I am ignoring someone, they will know it anyway, so they might as well have proof. Plus, it doesn’t really hurt to be honest about ignoring people.

When I was asked whether or not to turn them on, I immediately clicked yes, thinking why wouldn’t I allow people to see if I have read their messages? After all, I would prefer if people did that for me, and it didn’t make much sense to hide if or when I had read people’s messages. As it turned out, I was one of the only people who actually used them, which often left me feeling a bit naked in the world of iMessaging.

While some people may feel as if their privacy is being invaded or read receipts are simply a tool for blackmailing your friends, they serve a helpful purpose in furthering the flow of conversation. If you know that your friend has not read the message yet, there is no purpose in sending another because the chances of him or her reading that are low. In addition, it allows you to know when important information has been received.

When you have your read receipts on, you tend to be more attentive. It is always a conscious thought that if they know I have read the message, then I should respond in a prompt manner. In addition, if you have them turned on and open a message, they know that you’ve seen it and have received the information.

As an added bonus, you don’t have to send or receive those pesky one-word messages that say “ok, kk or sure.” If people know that you’ve read the message, they will presume that you will follow the instructions. This is particularly useful for those common “meet me here” conversations that require confirmation. If you have your read receipts on, your duty is complete.

gavel3-300x300If you’re carrying on a rapid-fire conversation with a friend, it is a great convenience to be able to see when that person has read your messages. You can take a break from messaging, knowing that they have in fact received and read your comments and will respond in the near future.

Perhaps the best reason to have them on is that it adds to the overall feeling of the conversation. When you are communicating with someone who is open enough to have their read receipts on, you tend to feel more comfortable sharing things with him or her. Knowing that your friend has received a particularly important piece of information or juicy tidbit of gossip creates a new sense of comfort between you and him or her.

The only possible downside is when people who have their read receipts on are inattentive to their messages. Being able to see that the message has been “delivered” and not “read” may cause uneasiness among some people. However, I’ve always taken great comfort in the fact that I know the message has simply gone unread instead of ignored.

A new “jailbreak tweak” has been created known as “Selective Reading” that allows you to choose when you send read receipts for certain people and ignore all of the others. This is an excellent opportunity for people who are a bit wary of having them on but would still like to use them with a few close acquaintances.

There is a definite value to having your read receipts on at all times, but if you’re afraid of that, I highly advise purchasing the jailbreak for $1.99. After all, what’s the harm in honesty? Your friends will be able to see when you’ve read your messages, and you can rest easy knowing that you are adding to a healthy conversation and using the best feature of iMessage.

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