• Keeping Friends

For Discussion: How quickly should a friend respond to a text message?

Published: July 18, 2013 | Last Updated: July 18, 2013 By | 49 Replies Continue Reading
Texting
A reader recently wrote about what she perceived as age-related differences in the way friends and family respond to a text message.

She wrote:

I’ve noticed differences in how people approach texting based on age. I’m 50 and my friends, about my age or younger, respond fairly quickly to texts as I do. If I can respond, I view it as a quick turn-around type of communication.

I’ve found that older friends and my sisters, who are about 55 years old and up, are slow to respond, sometimes taking up to 24 hours.

I recently discussed this with my 58-year-old sister who complains that I don’t stay in touch enough. Yet, she takes forever to respond to a text message while I send a quick “Hi” with a picture or something upbeat or newsy.


What has been your experience texting?

Have you found age-related differences? Are they related to different communication styles?

What are your expectations when you send or respond to a text message?

Have you gotten miffed when someone doesn’t respond right away to a text right you’ve sent?

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Category: Communication

Comments (49)

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  1. giraffe says:

    The “rules” are different for every situation. English is not my friend’s native language. Just today, I thought of starting to text him in Spanish, which is his first language and would be easier on him. It occurs to me that with the exhaustion from his demanding job, he needs to rest while off work. I’m sure he needs to have his phone turned off. This is what I do starting just before bedtime. I don’t expect an immediate reply from anyone, ever. I’m in my 50s and this would be novel for me.

  2. kath says:

    This is not an older age thing in my experience. I have a friend who I text and she is 36, she still doesn’t make quick responses, sometimes she just forgets, sometimes it can be a few days later she decides to respond. Its not nice for the friend sending the text and not to get a reply back. I would not expect a text back straight away, but everyone has a mobile that I know, if they can’t reply back at some point that same day, I think is totally unacceptable. Obviously if they are sick, then I understand of course. But that hasn’t been the case. I have another friend, not for much longer, who never intitates or suggests about meeting up, so I’m walking away. It shouldn’t be hard work to be a friend. Sometimes if you don’t see these friends and they are making no effort whatsoever to keep in touch, you need to walk away. All my older friends do keep in touch, and all my friends that is my age do too, I’m in my 40’s. Friends that are younger and who is always on their mobiles, are not consistent in keeping in touch. They are too busy going from one person to the other and getting involve with gossip rather then the person! Open your eyes out there and do what makes you happy.

  3. LB says:

    Son asked me on phone to do something for him. I said I needed to think about it.was a big time commitment. I texted him on Dec 21 asking for a lust of duties so I could determine if I could do that. On Dec 22 I sent a gift via mail. On Jan 2 I left a voicemail to call. No response.
    We also have been talking about moving forward on on a partnership.
    response. He has a history of not beingbtoo reliable so this non response is not doing much for my trust in him. How long do I wait before saying somthing or walking. What do I say.

  4. Nicky says:

    Debbie, I think if I was you I would not text your ‘friend’ again. If she texts you then she would be indicating she would still like to be your friend.

    I also think she was very rude when she told you, “I can’t be expected to answer every one of your texts” – well there you go; it does not sound like she holds you in much regard I am sorry to say. That is so rude.

    • Alan johnson says:

      “Let Speak”
       
      Life can be pleasant if you allow it too
      To do it is to be pleasant to those who
      You meet in your travels along the way
      Going about your business day by day
       
      Learn to speak, and not to text
      It’s hard to do but what do you expect
      We live in a world where talking’s become a pain
      If we allow technology will drive you insane

      With computers smart phones and iPods too
      I don’t really no longer need to talk to you
      That’s why I’m sending this e-mail which says it all
      No longer need to phone you to give you a call
       
      Which in itself is a dying shame
      But there again have only ourselves to blame
      So make a promise to stop this trend
      Before we end up losing all our friends
       
      Make a promise to pick up the phone
      Next time you’re sitting alone at home
      Friends like to hear your voice on the phone
      Particularly when they too are sitting alone

      By doing this you will heighten their day
      As text or e-mail is not the right way
      God gave us a voice so to one another we can speak
      So stop e-mailing and texting, and learn once again to speak

      By Dale Quentin

    • Masterpieced says:

      I look to see how people are with their devices when we are in public. If they are always on the device, then I know that when they do not return my email or text, that they are purposely avoiding me. However,if the person often keeps the phone in their purse or attache case, then I know that they are not attached to it and give me more of a pass.

  5. Anne says:

    I like texts for short info bites. Long text conversations are just too much for me, and might as well phone. Unfortunately, I have a friend who wants to start conversations on text, and I am not in the mood for that. I don’t quite know how to tell her, so I just don’t respond for a few hours when I sense she wants to launch I to a big thing hoping she won’t go into a long text monologue about something or other. I much prefer to pay attention to what I’m doing in the moment.

  6. Anne says:

    I like texts for short info bites. Long text conversations are just too much for me, and might as well phone. Unfortunately, I have a friend who wants to start conversations on text, and I am not in the mood for that. I don’t quite know how to tell her, so I just don’t respond for a few hours when I sense she wants to launch I to a big thing hoping she won’t go into a long text monologue about something or other. I much prefer to pay attention to what I’m doing in the moment in real life.

  7. Dawn says:

    I both hate when i dont get a quick response and i dont care if i dont get a quick response. it really depends on what my text is about to want a quick response…
    For instance, if I text my friends something insignificant or random like “Nuuu I’m out of milk” or “ugh, I gotta go to work!” Or even a “yo waddup?” Then I don’t expect or care if I don’t get a fast response if at all. Many times I’ve sent a random text to my friends and I never got a reply, even when they text me later abt something else and they don’t even really acknowledge my previous text… I really don’t care. But if I txt them a question or abt wanting to meet up or if i can call or that I’m feeling depressed and need them…that’s when I want a quick response and get hurt when I don’t. I have this friend who I’m really close to but she is bad at communication. She hates texting and prefers phone, in person and occasional emailing. Yet she says she loves it when people spams her with text….well, i respected her abt that and texted her knowing that I won’t get a reply….but it’s getting pretty ridiculous now. I mean back then whenever I texted her a question she would reply or when I txt her asking if I can call she would reply. Now she just doesn’t…AT ALL. Just 3 days ago At school, i asked her if I can email her because I needed to talk to her about something (and we live an hour away from each other so it’s hard to just meet up and school isnt a good place to talk) and she said of course! I emailed her 2 nights ago and she has not replied to it at all…and then I texted her asking if she was going to class today and if we could meet up to go together and I got no reply at all. I understand that she not good with these things but this is just being way too inconsiderate in my honest opinion. Before, I’ve sent her a personal email and she replied the next day because it was important. This email is also important but she just didn’t bother. I try to tolerate it because she has no other friends but me and 2 other girls. But I have my insecurities too and I get tired of always getting disappointed. And the worst part is that because of this I’m starting to sound like a needy person. We live far from each other. How are we supposed to get closer or bond more if we can’t even communicate properly!

    Am I being irrational or dramatic about this?

  8. Sarah says:

    I completely agree with all of this. Texting takes two seconds and can really mean a lot to the person who sent the text in the first place. I have a friend who is supposed to be my best friend but it has always bothered me that she sucks at communication. She doesnt respond to my text messages and if she ever does, it is a couple of words and very late. Ive told her that this bothers me and she said she would try to work on it, but it never improves. She just isn’t a good communicator, and truthfully, friendships need good communication to persist. It makes me feel so isolated and unimportant when she doesn’t answer me. She doesn’t see it as a big deal and I get the impression that she thinks I am needy. When we are having a disagreement I ask her if we can speak on the phone and she doesn’t respond to my suggestion. The only time she seems to be remotely responsive via text is if she is going through a serious life issue and I am trying to provide support and advice. It really sucks because she is my made of honour and I feel like it shouldn’t be this way.I feel very similar to Jan. I don’t know what to do anymore with her, it’s causing me a lot of stress. When I text her, I have to be cautious of what I send over because I know half of what I write will go unanswered and I try to save myself unecessary disappointment. When I voiced this to her she said, “I’m very busy and can’t repsond what away. When I do see your messages, what am I supposed to do? Go through each one and respond to every single one?!”

    I just don’t know where to turn anymore, she is constantly making me feel unimportant but when we are together things are mostly fine and we have fun together. I am worried about her being my MOH because she is so unresponsive and uncommunicative.

    • Denise says:

      These two sections of your post are pretty telling:

      “remotely responsive via text is if she is going through a serious life issue and I am trying to provide support and advice” and

      “When I text her, I have to be cautious of what I send over because I know half of what I write will go unanswered and I try to save myself unecessary disappointment. When I voiced this to her she said, “I’m very busy and can’t repsond what away. When I do see your messages, what am I supposed to do? Go through each one and respond to every single one?!” especially the last 3 lines.

      This is offensive and I’d take that to mean you’re more invested in the friendship than she is and maybe you should distance yourself for your own sake.

      It’s a wonder you can make plans and have fun if texting and phoning are difficult. I’d get another MOH.

    • Nicky says:

      I just read another website which says that people like your friend just doesn’t care which I know sounds harsh. It annoys me too, but if this happens to me I drop the so called friend immediately. It is just not worth the heartache.

      • Sarah says:

        Thanks for all your support,

        Since my last post her behaviour has continued and even worsened
        We are three weeks out to the wedding and at this point I wish I could turn back time and have her be my bridesmaid rather than my MOH
        Even her sister is more responsive than she is to me.

        We got into a bit of a spif recently and much of what I texted to her went unacknowledged as per usual. Her lack of communication and seemingly disinterest in seeing me makes me feel like she is being “forced” to be my MOH and doesn’t really genuinely want to do it.
        She has cancelled plans with me repeatedly and now making plans for just the two of us seems futile because I know it will never work out.

        She has cancelled coffee dates repeatedly despite living closer to me now than before and despite having no problem commuting further to see other mutual friends. This makes me feel terrible.

        I decided to keep a distance from her by texting less and since then I have received texts from her saying, “hello? Are u there?”
        I don’t understand how she can justify her lack of responsiveness to me when I am one of the most communicative people I know yet be SO surprised when i suddenly do not respond immediately.

        This should be such a happy time for me but I suddenly feel so isolated and depressed and as though I’ve made a horrible mistake for my wedding day.

        Thanks again for your continued support .

        • Nicky says:

          Sarah, A good and true friend should not make you feel like this. I am sure that you could change your mind and have someone else as your MOH. I moved to the same area as a good friend of mine (imagining that we would see more of each other) and saw even less of her. She had met a new boyfriend and all her efforts went into that relationship and she started cancelling arrangements/and or not turning up to events. I dropped her; she just didn’t care enough. Don’t spend any more energy on this woman as she is just not worth it.

    • Georgia says:

      The same thing happens to me. I completely understand. I’m sorry you have to deal with that. You deserve to be treated better

  9. Jan says:

    I have a friend who is like a sister but for the past several months she has been so absorbed in her own life, there has been little to no room for our friendship. She isn’t one to talk on the phone, and seems to have no time to go for coffee to visit and connect. I text and/or email as a way of trying to stay in touch. I do not do it that frequently in my opinion – maybe three brief text messages per week and one email every week or two. She very rarely responds even though I know that she has at least read my texts (my phone indicates when they have been read). I am getting very hurt and frustrated. It is hard to maintain or grow a friendship when you do not spend time together or communicate in any way. I feel ignored, dismissed, invisible. I know there are others in her life that she likely does respond to but I feel that if she truly cares about me the way she says she does, then either she feels it is ok to dismiss me like this (because she thinks I will care about her no matter what), or she is using me to be there when SHE wants or needs me to be and only when it is convenient for her. I don’t know what to do but it has been going on for months now and I am getting hurt and frustrated.

    • Denise says:

      This does sound unfair and like she is ignoring you. It’s almost worse to read a message and ignore it than not read it at all. Since a few messages a week don’t get responses, I’d try no messages. I bet she expects messages, so getting nothing may elicit a response for some reason. If you can stand it, try it and see what happens. If you don’t hear from her soon or ever, I’d let it go, wouldn’t beg for an answer. Sometimes we never get answers to some questions.:(

    • Sarah says:

      I feel this way exactly about my friend, Jan. I wonder if some people just can’t text? I don’t get it, it is so disappointing.

  10. mike says:

    i think someone should be able to text back or reply when ever they want. they do not need to reply at all if they do not want to. unless its a emergency text or call then screw it

  11. Justin says:

    I cannot stand people who take forever to reply, especially on Facebook (yes I know it isn’t texting but who cares) on Facebook you can see when they have been online and are just blatantly ignoring your messages. I wish Karma would bite them right where it hurts!!!

  12. moonlightlady339 says:

    I agree with Debbie that unless someone is trapped under something heavy, or another person is standing on them, lol, they should be able to respond to either a text or email within a reasonable amount of time. And by reasonable, I’m thinking, if you are normally around, within the day, or next day, is considered good etiquette. Now I have friends who do not like to text or email, and we have nice regular phone chats. If people care about one another, communication in some form or other on a regular basis is crucial. If a person is self centered, you will know this almost immediately because they will not get back with you within a reasonable amount of time, they will not email you back, they won’t phone you back, they won’t text you back. They are TSAs…Totally Self Absorbed people and seriously, you’re better off without them. My personal communicative preference is email. I really like it because it allows me a bit of time to get my thoughts together before either responding or starting a new topic.
    I’m sorry, but I just think a lot of people are lazy, and lazy people are running the risk of losing good friends because people who are more on top of it and who are considerate of other people’s feelings “will” become frustrated at those who are too lazy to even bother.

  13. Debbie says:

    I agree with you for the most part Erin, but when someone says they consider you like a
    sister and they don’t get back to you it sucks; yeah, life gets in the way etc., etc., but a week in my book is a week too long, especially when I know for a fact she gets in touch with others in the moment; I guess I just need to take the hint on this one…

  14. GraceW says:

    I have actually told friends upfront, “I don’t like to text” or “I’m not much of a texter.” Then I explain the situations when I’m apt to use it, primarily for communication if we’re already scheduled to do something, like “Hey, I am on my way but running 10 minutes late.” A long distance childhood friend and I also use texts to schedule phone calls: “Hey, are you free for a call later tonight?” We have to coordinate across different time zones, so that prelim text helps. But I’m NOT a day-to-day texter and I let people know upfront.

    I have also just gone ahead and asked friends questions like “Are you a phone person?” because I’m happy to modify how I do things a bit to suit my friends’ preferences. If someone is not a phone person, I make sure I don’t call that person “just to chat.” And because I tell people that I prefer not to text, if someone takes it personally that I don’t want to chat all day via text, the friendship isn’t going work long term.

  15. Erin says:

    I view texting as an non-urgent way to talk to someone, like email. Who checks their email every second? Also, have you considered that the phone may be turned off or the ringer is off? If you really want to talk to someone urgently or if you have alot to say call them or talk to them in person!

  16. Debbie says:

    I agree that texting is a QUICK way to QUICKLY and conscientiously get back to a friend, and I also MUCH prefer gave a nice longer chat in person or on the phone. This week, I was really hurt by a “friend” that I’ve been questioning whether of not she’s a friend that I can really rely on. My family and I went on a 3 week vacation to Greece, and the day we got back I texted her (she had also babysat out pet lizard, so was also checking in for that reason) – I didn’t get a response all week-I just showed up at her door with a little gift I had picked up for her; I was REALLY ticked off; I have issues with anxiety, so was also really stressed about the whole thing; things seemed tense between us, and when my husband went to pick up our pet lizard, she finally texted me to say she wanted to give me time to unpack and do my groceries. That could be considered thoughtful, but I know for a fact that she gets back to others immediately and is always on social media. Things have been hot and cold with us for a while now, so I’m just gonna back off, and be content to see her in a group setting I guess….

    • Kim says:

      debbie, you are questioning if your friend is someone you can rely on. 2 things.

      1. your friend babysitting your lizard, did she offer or did you ask?
      2. you showing up to your friend’s place, unannounced
      3. you getting frustrated over your friend not answering your texts/calls for one week – it was one week, not one month

      so you want to back off.. if i were your friend, you wouldn’t need to back off from me. i’d be gone before you even think of it.

      • Debbie says:

        Wow Kim,

        If an email ever had a tone it’s definitely yours-glad yours not a friend of mine! This forum is meant to be a respectful, safe place…..please keep that in mind.

        • Kim says:

          You have a yours syndrome? Lol. And no, not everyone has the time to “get to know you better” online, so one should also be mindful of what they rant. If people don’t like negativity and drama in person, it’s the same way online.

        • denise says:

          Agree with you Debbie.

        • Molly says:

          I agree with you Debbie regarding Kims criticism. There is no need for judgemental tones on this friendship forum. Best to keep it positive and constructive.

          I also agree with Debbie in that I would expect a friend whom I had texted the day I returned from a 3 week os holiday, whom had been baby sitting a lizard (each person has the freedom to say yes/ no to requests btw- so obviously this friend said “yes”- not Debbie’s fault) to pretty much respond within the day with eg “Hi Debbie, hope you had a great time. Your lizard is here for pick up when you can- see you soon”.

          Good friends communicate with transparency and respect and this did not happen for Debbie.

          Best to move on from friends like that and befriend those who are not into “Cyber Mind Games”, as I call it.

      • Debbie says:

        The problem with these forums as well is we:
        A) don’t know the people involved or have ANY idea of their histories
        B) don’t take the time to read the other posts!
        C) have a tendency to judge
        Ultimately I try in life to treat people the way I would want to be treated; friends drop in, call whenever, the rules are very personal between individuals – we need more love & understanding in this world, not less, and I’m the first to admit that.

        • Kim says:

          I believe this is about the OP’s question, not your own forum. And you’re wondering why your friend is backing away from you?

      • denise says:

        Harsh response.

        About showing up announced….I would ask someone, for future reference, if that would be ok in the future. I may be in the area or not have a phone, etc. If she doesn’t like drop-ins, now I know.

        About taking more than a week to respond to a text….a response shouldn’t take more than 1 or 2 minutes. Surely one can find time within 24 hours unless there is a crisis happening.

        • Molly says:

          I agree Denise- it was a harsh response.

          Regarding turning up unannounced – good friends do that all the time. Growing up and even now I have always known friends to pop over for a cuppa or pop in to drop something up or pick something up.
          Also, Debbie did text her friend- so she did try to communicate first.

          I also agree about text response – quick and respectful.
          Good friends never play “Cyber Mind Games” and don’t ignore you. It’s like being given the silent treatment and that is just plain nasty.

          However- the phone could be broken, flat, lost etc and these must be taken into account to minimise unnecessary over-reactions.

        • Georgia says:

          I agree with everything you said Debbie but not everyone is like us. Sorry about your friend

  17. Sally Barker says:

    Texting is something that can easily get out of hand. I always try to text back as fast as possible, but I sometimes forget for a day or so because I try to pay as much attention to the people that are actually in my presence. This shows a lot about how much someone cares – if you are constantly texting (like some of my friends do when we hang out) then you can’t be listening to anything being said in the real life conversation.

  18. Leah says:

    For people who I know have the same attitude about texting, I reply quickly. I view texting as a way to send/ receive information- times, dates, simple answers…I do not send ‘hey’..or ‘what’s up?’….those sorts of conversations seem pointless to me…
    So if it a friend who asks a certain I answer as soon as I receive the text.
    BUT if a friend who sends those vague sort of texts, I reply with much delay..to be honest as a discouraging tactic.

    • Annie says:

      – “BUT if a friend who sends those vague sort of texts, I reply with much delay..to be honest as a discouraging tactic.
      Reply ”

      Leah, thanks for pointing this out. I get stressed out by friends who like having long conversations over text messages. I guess I haven’t been helping myself in discouraging these type of conversations as I see to it that I respond to them as soon as I get the time. I need to cut the text conversation as fast as I can. It can get too stressful. I don’t like living my life on the cellphone. Whatever happened to voice calls and meetups.

  19. Annie says:

    I used to respond to texts ASAP, but until I realized that it takes too much time because some people like to text several times a day and I really don’t like sitting and texting all the time. If you want to communicate with me, we can always talk over the phone. Most of my friends feel weird that I seldom respond to texts anymore. I just don’t like text conversations anymore. Too much time. Talking on the phone/meeting is better.

  20. Amy says:

    What has been your experience texting? I love texting. It’s an easy way for quick communications.

    Have you found age-related differences? Are they related to different communication styles? I think younger people use e-communication more “naturally” than older folks who grew up without such devices. Being an old fogey, prefer the old fashioned way, because I think it leads to more intimate relationships and there’s less chance of miscommunication.

    What are your expectations when you send or respond to a text message? None. I hope for a reply but understand that life gets in the way.

    Have you gotten miffed when someone doesn’t respond right away to a text right you’ve sent? No. There are more reasons why a text isn’t responded to right away than there are for someone to reply right away. Not everyone is attached to her phone.

    In my opinion, people who get upset about the text response time are likely those who also get upset over non-electronic communications, because both make negative assumptions without checking out the true meaning of a statement or action.

  21. Denise says:

    I don’t have a phone because I’ve never been able to afford one and am currently unemployed. In general, I believe I’d respond within an hour if I’m free, can stop for a minute, etc. Responding at work depends on the work environment. Is there a way for an incoming text to signal urgency? If this is possible, it would alert me to look right away. Otherwise, I’d let people know I check once in awhile, every hour, whatever routine I developed so they’d have an idea of what to expect.

  22. jacqueline says:

    I am not crazy about texting….I prefer using the telephone.

  23. Cindy says:

    I think sometimes phone is in another room or in their handbag and people don’t always realise that they have had a text till some hours later. But I now try to check mine every few hours throughout day, just in case. If I have missed a text by some hours I usually text I have only just seen your message so they know.

  24. Irene says:

    Good thought!
    Thanks!
    Irene

  25. Kristen A. says:

    I respond to a text as soon as I read it, unless I need to get information I don’t have yet. In that case, I may or may not send a “I’ll get back to you” text as soon as I read it, or I might just wait until I have the answer, depending on how soon I think I’ll be able to get the answer.

    The key phrase in that is “as soon as I read it.” If I’m at work, I’m not going to be looking at my cell phone until my next break, so it could be several hours.

    I’m wondering if the writer’s 55+ friends on average are letting text messages sit without response or if they take longer to see them because they use their cell phones less. Although my mother has her cell phone on more of the time now because when she retired we convinced her that we needed to be able to reach her and could no longer call an office number, she still often only turns it on when she’s out without another family member. She assumes that if she’s home, we can reach her on the landline, and if she’s out with my dad, I can call him. If she’s out with me and not my dad, he typically tries my phone first. If the letter writer’s friends are similar, possibly the reason they take up to twenty-four hours sometimes is that it takes that long for them to check their phone.

    (For generational tracking purposes, I’m just shy of thirty and my mother is sixty-five.)

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