Friday, September 24, 2010

The official acceptable text response window

Today's Dear Abby concludes with a simple quick question:
What is an acceptable time frame to receive a response to a question you send via phone texting?
And gets a simple quick response:
Although we live in a world where most of us seek instant gratification, the answer depends upon how busy the person you are texting is.
While I admire brevity (clearly I am incapable of it), I also like responses which give arbitrary solid answers. I posed the reader's question to Darnell.

Darnell: Infinite?

Lulu: Well, yeah, that's true! "Acceptable" is the weird word there, since it seems like this is a question from the original text-message-conversation initiator. I don't think they get to say what's acceptable for the other person.

Darnell: Like, at what point you should start screaming at your friend because they haven't responded to your text?

Lulu: But I still feel like there is a distinct time frame to be figured out here. Let's imagine this is somebody who had received a text, and wanted to know if it was too late to respond to it.

Darnell: Texts are weird - I have an example of this from last night.

Lulu: You have a text from last night?

Darnell: Hah, I guess I do! My friend sent me a text, but I didn't have my phone on me at the time. When I finally saw it, it was when I was going to bed, so I didn't feel like responding. Then by this morning it was too late, so I will never respond to that text.

Lulu: Exactly. At a certain point, it becomes much more unlikely that you'll respond, because you feel like you missed the window.

Darnell: If somebody doesn't respond to your question within four hours you are allowed to call them, how about that?

Lulu: Yeah. That's what the person wants, I think; just to know when it's okay to bug them again. Or when to give up.

Darnell: If you cultivate a habit of fake-angry-demands you can do it almost immediately. "Hey, Lulu!" beat, beat, beat, "FINE!"

Lulu: Yeah, I mean, only you can determine what you deem acceptable or unacceptable. And the four-hour rule we just made up is not a bludgeon to beat people with. It's not "unacceptable" to fail to respond within four hours--as Abby points out, the person may have a busier life than you, or even if they don't, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are busy with something for any given four-hour period. Or just don't feel like responding yet. That's not a capital crime. But most people who text do check their phones daily, so if you want a window for your own peace of mind, I think you can assume that if you don't get a response within 12 hours or so, the conversation is over.

Darnell: And if you ask a question three times via text and they never respond you are either doing something wrong or need new friends.


  1. Darnell, I texted you Sat night and you responded Sun morning. And I appreciated that, I was still curious what the answer to my question was! Our window is infinite.

  2. Ours is a love that defies my own advice.