Messaging timing etiquette
April 10, 2021 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Is there a consensus on etiquette about texting or messaging (dating apps or otherwise) acquaintances early in the morning?

I (in the US, late 30s) am a very early riser and (especially as a lot of online social sites have moved towards phone apps that do instant notifications) I’m never quite sure if I should wait til later. My concern is whether I might wake someone up/whether I can assume they turn noisy phone notifications off at night, not that they’ll think I was expecting an instant response (I’m not—I’m just responding at a time I’m awake and chilling.) I realize the answer might be “no consensus” but it also might be, like, 70% one way or the other and that would be useful.
posted by needs more cowbell to Human Relations (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (I barely thought about this until someone sent me a series of Facebook messages at 2am a few years ago, which for some reason woke me up despite my having curated my notification settings in a way that was usually fine, and since then I’ve been sort of unable to shake the nagging concern about timing.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:16 AM on April 10

If it's a text or FB messenger or something else that might go DING, and they are local or in my time zone, I tend to wait until at least 9am, assuming (because you have to make SOME for this question) everyone's kind of a nine to fiver when it comes to working.
If they are in a different time zone, then I tend to wait until 9am their time to digitally tap them on the shoulder.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 4:19 AM on April 10 [12 favorites]

I'm not in your demographic (older and mostly retired, not 9-5) but my attitude is that your friends are responsible for silencing their phones when they want to sleep. There are provisions for emergency messages to get through when the phone is silenced. That said, you could include "Let me know later ..." or "let me know this week ..." in your messages.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:30 AM on April 10 [32 favorites]

I had a moment of whoops about this the other day when I responded to a text from US West-coast friend at my US East-coast 6AM in response to a text he had sent me the night before. And then I was like, "He's an adult and he knows how to silence his phone."

If it's someone who I *know* doesn't silence their phone and would feel obligated to respond right away, sure I might wait. But in general I assume people figure out something that works for them on the notification side and I don't worry about it.

Basically I think it's a "know your audience" kind of thing.
posted by mskyle at 4:33 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]

No idea if it’s social consensus, but I’m in your demo. For various reasons I don’t have my devices completely silenced overnight. I likewise don’t assume the same of others. I’d prefer not getting messages before 7:30 AM, but only think it unusual before 7. On the same note, if we aren’t in a conversation already I won’t send a first message in a while to a casual contact after 10 PM. all of this changes as more comfort and patterns get established.
posted by meinvt at 4:43 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]

I usually wait till I think the person is awake before texting, or at least till 8, unless there's a reason my text is time sensitive. (Often this involves leaving stuff in draft.)

Any type of messaging besides actual SMS, I send whenever.

I figure most people can configure app-by-app alert level, but contact-by-contact configuration people don't bother - and SMS or phone might be used for urgent things, fb messaging not so much. Maybe that's an old fashioned or very culturally-specific idea though ;)
posted by february at 4:51 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]

Personally, we try to refrain from texting anyone before 9am during the week, and before 10am on the weekends.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:52 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]

I waited four years for a transplant, and those calls can happen any time. The transplant team didn't always use a particular number I could program into my phone, so there was no way I was going to risk missing a call by defaulting to silent. Lots of people have lots of other reasons. Every reason is valid.

For me, I don't like phones dinging after 9pm or before 9am, unless it's an emergency or we've worked something out in advance.

It's just basic courtesy not to expect people to be available to you 24 hours a day. Unless you know this person pretty well and have an understanding of what's okay for them, messages can wait. Even if their phone is on silent, the best case scenario is that they see your message and become mentally obligated to switch to comms mode as soon as they wake up.
posted by mochapickle at 4:55 AM on April 10 [22 favorites]

No one I know seems to mind that I almost never respond to a message sent after 9:30pm because that's when I'm winding down for bed. I've got my notifications off and I'm done caring about my phone.

Likewise they don't seem to mind that these messages get returned in the 6-7am range when I am waking up and scrolling through my phone.

Do Not Disturb works remarkably well in the year of our lord 2021, and in my opinion if a person hasn't set it up for hours that work for their life, they are consenting to be interrupted. And just me, if I wait to send a text I might never actually send it. Now or never baby.
posted by phunniemee at 4:59 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Now that I’m thinking this through more - when I’m wondering about this it’s almost always something other than texting. Things that 5 years ago would have been messages you could (or would likely) only read in a browser or have gotten an email notification about and I wouldn’t have thought about this because it would not wake someone up or potentially be interpreted as expecting someone to be available. I’m not sure if phone apps have just ruined the possibility of that kind of not-instant communication or if I’ve killed it for myself by worrying about other people’s ability to manage their notifications using a combo of technology and boundaries.

(and now I will step back and not thread-sit!)
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:04 AM on April 10

In a dating context very early morning messages (like before 4 or 5 am) potentially read as a booty call.
posted by roolya_boolya at 5:06 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]

Sure yes, adults should know how to silence their phones. Still, I think it's bordering on obnoxious. However, I am older, and often forget to silence my phone, and sleep lightly. Why not err on the side of politeness? Or is it so urgent and necessary to ping someone when they may still be sleeping? (For me this is only instant messaging. Emails are fine and don't ping my phone.)
posted by Glinn at 5:42 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]

I don't text early, but most apps I wouldn't worry about it unless maybe the app was explicitly intended to be a text-like service (WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, etc). Even then I feel like I think of those as less intrusive than a text.

I know it's not a totally coherent position but it's a data point.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:09 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]

I have friends across the planet in various time zones with vastly different sleep schedules. I send messages when I send them, and they can reply when they get them/are around. They're responsible for their own notification settings, like I am for mine.

DND (on iOS, at least) has an option where a second call made within a minute or so will go through. This works for emergencies, since I assume if it's actually important, the other party will try calling repeatedly. I actually have had this happen in practice, where a (very sad but necessary) phone call woke me up during my normal no-notification hours. The rest of the time my friends can blow up my phone with texts if they want to, because I won't see them until morning. (I have this setting turn on automatically before bed as well, since fixed hours have less room for error.)

Work acquaintances, though? Absolutely 7 am or later, and only if I'm giving them a heads up if I'm sick. It feels weird otherwise.
posted by lesser weasel at 6:27 AM on April 10 [9 favorites]

Interesting. I have friends all over the world (and live 6-7 hours time difference ahead of my family), so it would be near impossible for any of us to stay in touch if we only messaged during the recipient’s “business hours.” Waking up to a raft of messages from the other side of the world is my normal routine.
posted by whitewall at 6:31 AM on April 10 [24 favorites]

I feel like 8 is a nice compromise. I have a similar problem because I am in medicine, which starts early.
posted by 8603 at 6:45 AM on April 10

I tell my people they can message me at any hour. I silence my phone when I sleep or don't want to be disturbed.
posted by manageyourexpectations at 6:48 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

Why not write your texts when you are available and schedule them to be delivered at a time that seems more appropriate? It's pretty easy to do on android. I like to write anything that is essentially casual conversation to be delivered about 30 minutes or so before I take a lunch (which ends up being around 10 -11 am). I find that gives people time to reply and then I can respond to anything I need to during my lunch break and/or schedule more messages to be delivered later in the day before my commute home.
posted by AnneShirley at 6:54 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]

I think you should be you. This is maybe even a little self selecting. Wouldn't it be nice to meet someone that you've otherwise matched with in a dating app who is also a an early riser? People can and should mute their phones when they intend to be unresponsive so I say do it, let your am freak flag fly!!
posted by chasles at 7:05 AM on April 10 [4 favorites]

I’m not sure if phone apps have just ruined the possibility of that kind of not-instant communication or if I’ve killed it for myself by worrying about other people’s ability to manage their notifications using a combo of technology and boundaries.

But this is what Do Not Disturb is for. If people can't remember to turn on their Do Not Disturb, that's on them, not you?

I actually don't understand how people function without DND. My boss is the only exception I have to the DND function, because on the off chance we have a site emergency, it's an emergency and I need to be there. That happens never. What does happen on the regular is Imgur sending me automated links at 2 am; Google sending me news and weather at 7; phone games letting me know I've got scores at 1 am; etc. None of this bothers me, and none of my friends bother me, because I have DND on.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:06 AM on April 10 [10 favorites]

I am an older millennial (late 30s). My phone has been on silent for years. I get and send texts/chats/etc at all hours, because I have friends and family in numerous time zones. I think it’s a person’s responsibility to keep their phone silenced at night or turn off notifications for group chats that may have activity during weird hours. Unless someone says something like “hey stop texting me at 2am!” (Though no one has ever said this, I would comply with their wishes!). I would not worry about sending messages at anytime.
posted by katypickle at 7:19 AM on April 10 [6 favorites]

I and my friends are in the late 20s/early 30s zone. I really send and reply to texts absolutely whenever and assume most people have their own working relationship with notifications. I airplane mode when I go to bed, for example. Though, thinking about it, that's with my actual friends. If it was just an acquaintance or in a dating context I might consider waiting til more "normal" times (9am-9pm seems about reasonable to me).
posted by Balthamos at 7:34 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]

There is no consensus, and if your goal is to meet someone who's "right" for you, then do whatever comes naturally. As someone else said - this is self-selecting. If somebody is put off by getting a message early in the morning, they're going to be put off by you being an early riser later on.

That said, I agree with other folks that anything that makes (or might make) a device go "ding" should be saved for later in the day -- just in general. Not for dating apps, but I have cow-orkers who use our company chat system to message me outside my hours and it's really annoying if I've forgotten to mute my computer or phone. Don't be that person.

Sometimes people have reasons for leaving devices on and/or people just like a little time when they're not being intruded on by others, even virtually by text/chat/whatever. Until you establish a routine with people I think you'd be practicing good etiquette by refraining from messaging prior to 9 a.m. or 10/11 a.m. on weekends. If you establish that they're a morning person too, then go for it!

Again, you're not going to "ruin" a potential relationship either way. If they're into you and you'd be a good match, that'd include whatever messaging habits you might have. I just think people in general should refrain from messaging anybody at any time under the assumption that they have muted everything to avoid being disturbed. That may generally be true, but there are times when it's just not practical.
posted by jzb at 7:42 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

My schedule is later than most people's, so I get messages before waking up fairly often. The only time it bugs me is if it's a group text and my phone is pinging every 30 seconds , but then I just silence it. My mom is also notorious for sending very non-urgent texts (such as "Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble gobble" or "What are your plans this weekend?") in the 4 am -5 am hour. 9 am sounds completely reasonable to me, and as long as you aren't blowing up their phone, you're fine.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 7:52 AM on April 10

My key takeaway from this thread is that there are many people who don’t understand how or can’t be asked to set up their devices to suit their notification preferences. To me this is just an extension from turning off the random sounds devices and computers are set to make as default.

That was expected etiquette in large, open plan offices when I entered the work force, just after everybody started to get dumb phones and there were people heading out to grab lunch without taking their mobile phones with them.

Within a couple of days after getting my first blackberry I figured out how to turn off the email notifications, both the sound and the visual about unread emails.

Everything silent and minimal notifications and DND has served me well in both my professional and my private life ever since.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:00 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

Another data point: late 30’s shift worker. I send, receive, and respond to texts at any time. My phone is almost always on silent, but I’m a compulsive phone checker who uses her phone for entertainment purposes anyway, so it is rare that I’m not willing to respond. However, I never thought about texting people outside of my close group AFTER 10/10:30PM or before 6AM unless I felt it was a very urgent message; kind of like I wouldn’t call someone’s house back in the landline days after 10:30 or before 6.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:12 AM on April 10 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: What I’m getting is that no, there is not really enough consensus to be useful to me here, in part because everyone has their little “well X is OK, but not Y” stuff which seems to vary.

As a side note of sorts, I have my iphone set to automatically go into Do Not Disturb during certain core hours and some people in this thread might appreciate the information that that feature exists.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:21 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]

It's my phone and my app. I answer whenever I feel like it.

If they are too nervous or too demanding about needing a reply right away or in minutes, they're probably too intense for me.
posted by kschang at 8:22 AM on April 10

I get texts and emails at all times of the day including the overnight hours from commercial and robo sources. I'm surprised that most of the comments don't reflect the same experience, but maybe I work less hard at stifling alerts. At one time, texts were instant communication, but now it's just another variety of email used by, e.g., doctors reminding you of appointments.

I'd do email and texts at my own convenience. Not phone calls though.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:41 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

It depends on the person. I have a couple close friends/family who I'll text any time of the day (often because they message me regardless of time, and I answer when I see it). But for other people I try to be mindful of their normal awake hours.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:25 AM on April 10

Apps: Any time. Texts: Not before 9am.

Simple civility, and everyone saying “It’s your own responsibility to silence your phone to accommodate other people’s desire to text super-early” presumably doesn’t have elderly relatives, or anyone else who they’d definitely want to be woken up by if there was an emergency call in the night.

There’s plenty of hours in the day, why is anyone’s social message so important that it’s worth potentially waking someone up for?

This may only work for those of us of a certain vintage, but if you’re old enough to remember the time when the only way to contact people was by phone, I think the same etiquette applies - would you phone a friend at 7am and expect them to be glad to hear from you? If not, don’t text either. If you happen to know they’re an early bird and don’t mind, fire away.
posted by penguin pie at 9:54 AM on April 10 [7 favorites]

I would text after 8am. Even relatively savvy people may not have their do not disturb or app-specific notifications set to silent, e.g. just got a new phone, just downloaded the app onto their phone, still in pandemic brain fog. I _just_ turned off push notifications on several apps and I got a new-to-me phone two months ago...

But, I would also ask pretty early on -- "hey is it okay if I message you in the mornings (time-specified)."
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:06 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]

There’s plenty of hours in the day, why is anyone’s social message so important that it’s worth potentially waking someone up for?

Part of this is how time normative your relationship circle is. Mine is way over in the "anyone I'm texting is just as likely to be awake at 3am and sleeping at 10 am as vice versa". No one has a 9-5 schedule. Trying to time a potential notification for a awake hours is an impossible task.
posted by Mitheral at 10:17 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]

I think messaging when you are awake early is totally fine on dating apps.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:55 AM on April 10

I’m perfectly capable of using the automatic DND function on my phone, but I don’t, because:

A. On occasion, it has malfunctioned and not let through a message from someone on my list of people to let through.
B. I work for a domestic violence agency. We have a chat line that is technically only open from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., but people in crisis don’t always notice the time constraints, and send messages asking for help at 2:30 a.m. I can’t in good conscience leave those people hanging, so I respond and help them. I haven’t found any way to add a website chat line to my “important contacts” list, so I can’t use the DND.

My own rule is no texting between 9-9. Other types of notifications are easy to sleep through, IME, but text messages are not.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:03 PM on April 10 [2 favorites]

Yeah, sorry, I've got friends in too many different time zones to "never text between the hours of...". Count me on Team Learn How To Silence Your Phone.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:35 PM on April 10

My friends and family have all sorts of different preferences, sleep schedules, time zones, and Do Not Disturb protocols. I myself can't use DND, since I'm regularly on call and might get called from random numbers.

If a certain number keeps texting me at inconvenient hours, I'm more likely to mute their notifications, rather than use DND to selectively whitelist everyone else. So, I understand that not everyone can use DND.

I err on the side of "I'd rather not wake anyone up" and limit texts and phone calls to 9 AM - 9 PM, unless I'm 100% sure it's okay to text outside of those hours.

I am also vehemently NOT a morning person, and weekend mornings are my sacred sleeping-in time that I look forward to all week long, and I can't stand being woken up by unnecessary texts and phone calls, and my close friends are aware of this (as am I of their sleep schedules).
posted by aquamvidam at 12:51 PM on April 10 [3 favorites]

I know how to silence my phone but I have multiple responsibilities (work, family, friends) that mean I can't actually do so completely when I need to sleep; this is also a thing for people with loved ones who are on different continents but who might end up in hospital or something similar. Always nice to see that having responsibilities makes someone presumptively ignorant of their phone's capabilities...

Still, even given that, I think you do what you're comfortable with, with the understanding that someone like me will just uninstall the app rather than deal with random shit like this when I'm trying to sleep.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:04 PM on April 10 [4 favorites]

I send and receive messages with friends from the early morning. We're all up because of work/kids. On my end of things I actually don't have any notifications for my messaging, I have to open the program to see if there's a message. If someone sends me something super early or late that's fine as it won't disturb me.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:09 PM on April 10

I assume that people are able to manage their own phone settings, and I wouldn’t think anyone was strange for messaging when they had time.

And my personal feeling is that if someone needs to hear phone calls ringing at 5 AM but doesn’t want to hear a ding from their dating app at 5 AM, they can just... set their phone up to do that.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 7:24 PM on April 10 [4 favorites]

I might avoid texting, but email - people get email at all hours from all sorts of places, automated or personal or whatever. If getting an email in the middle of the night wakes you up every time, that is going to be hard on you. So I don't think that's a reasonable thing to predict.
posted by Lady Li at 8:29 PM on April 10

If it is an inappropriate time to call, it is also an inappropriate time to text, as both make phones ring and beep if they are not silenced. If you are close enough with someone to know their schedule, then you know if you can make their phone make noise without being rude at 6:00 a.m. or midnight. If not, the old rule of no calls before 8:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m. applies to texting too.
posted by mortaddams at 5:32 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]

This might depend on age. I'm a 30-something who worked in tech for awhile and in my community culture you can send messages whenever you want. The burden is on the recipient to manage their phone settings so as not to disturb themselves while asleep. In my world, texting is actually the appropriate thing to do after-hours, when it's too late to call. It's like "here's a thing you can read in the morning."
posted by amaire at 9:29 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]

For me it's a matter of politeness and respect to try to time my messages to when I know the recipient is in a place to receive them. That means that I pay attention to time zones and work habits for people I'm close enough to text. It isn't a matter of age. If you haven't had to be on call or deal with having an ill relative you probably don't have empathy for people who cannot use do not disturb settings or find they don't work as granularly as they'd like.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:19 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]

I think it's polite to wait until the other person is fully awake and has gotten their day started. I don't text people before 9am or after 9pm with very rare exception. A dear friend and I exchange good morning texts and chitchat before 9 pretty regularly, but that's it. I am on a Whatsapp group that includes people who live about 8 hours time zone difference, and so that's the one instance we all just message whenever.

If someone on a dating app messaged me early in the morning or after 10pm, I'd be pretty irked, but that's just me. Once we're actually dating, that could be negotiated.

Edited to add: Part of the reason I do this and prefer it is because I can be forgetful, and I also want to give the message my full attention. So if I open the app and see the message, I may forget to come back to it until much later.
posted by Mouse Army at 1:05 PM on April 11 [1 favorite]

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