Smartphones are great for keeping us connected and in touch, but this isn’t always a blessing. Turning off phones is rarely a viable solution, just in case something important is about to happen, but can we really expect people to be constantly monitoring and calling?
WhatsApp messages are just one of many modern intrusions in this digital age that don’t take into account what we’re doing or how we feel when they reach our phones. Sometimes we want a chance to think about what we want to say before we respond, but don’t be rude by not responding right away. But we know they know we read it.
And that’s the problem here: WhatsApp is too easy to tell when someone has read your messages. It’s convenient when you’re the one sending the message, but less welcome when it’s the other way around. You can’t hide under a blanket and pretend it didn’t happen.
So how does someone know when you’ve read their messages on WhatsApp? The most obvious way is through the ticker icons displayed at the bottom of each WhatsApp message: a gray tick is sent; two gray ticks are assigned; two blue ticks are read.
To make matters worse, you can select any message and tap the three-dot icon, then Info, to see the exact time the message was sent and when it was read.
And then Last Seen: even if you get around the marking system and timing issues, you can actually explain you were online 10 minutes ago and didn’t see the message sent for you an hour ago?
Here’s how to fix some of those problems.
How to turn off WhatsApp read confirmation
You can use WhatsApp’s marking system in an official way or a sneaky way.
The official way is best if you don’t want someone to know when you’ve read their messages, but you need to accept that you won’t be able to tell when they’ve read yours either.
The sneak way is best if you want to achieve this in a special way – perhaps it’s just one person you’re avoiding, rather than the whole world.
Official way to disable WhatsApp read confirmation
Launch WhatsApp, tap the three-dot icon in the top right, then select Settings.
Select Account > Security. Scroll down and turn off the Read Receipts option.
Note that this doesn’t apply to group messages, although it’s less obvious when you’ve read a message in these chats because the two ticks won’t turn blue until everyone saw that message. You can still check who’s read a message you’ve sent in a group chat by selecting the message, tapping the three-dot icon, and choosing Info.
Sneaky way to see WhatsApp read receipts
There are different ways to read WhatsApp messages without the app recognizing you have read them. Most of this is possible because you never opened the app in the first place.
Here are some places where you can read WhatsApp messages without opening them:
- In the notification preview – at the top of the screen, in the notification menu and even on your lock screen
- In WhatsApp home screen widget
- On a connected smartwatch or fitness tracker that supports WhatsApp notifications
- While using your phone in Airplane Mode – but only while it’s offline
You can enable high-priority notifications in Settings > Notifications. This will show up at the top of your screen as they arrive, and you can read them and then swipe them away without opening them.
Lock screen notifications are also available when you go to Settings > Notifications and find this option under Messages.
Blocking someone is a last resort, especially if you want to stay friends. You can achieve this by opening the conversation thread, tapping the three dots at the top, and choosing More > Block. Don’t forget to unblock them later if you go down this path.
As long as they stay blocked, they won’t know if you’ve read their messages, but there will be other clues that they’re blocked: your profile picture and status will disappear, no messages any of them will be sent and they won’t be able to call you.
The following ‘tips’ will not allow you to read WhatsApp messages without being seen:
How to turn off Last Seen
It wouldn’t be good to turn off read receipts if the sender of your message could see that you were on WhatsApp and didn’t bother reading their message. In fact, it’s even worse.
Like with read receipts, this works both ways: you can’t tell when they were last online if you don’t let them see it while you’re there.
Launch WhatsApp, tap the three dots at the top right of the screen and select Settings.
Choose Account > Security, then Last Viewed.
You can then choose who to see when you were last online: everyone, no one, or just your contacts.
Read next: How to use WhatsApp on computer & Most common WhatsApp scams
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