Going on vacation? You probably already know how to set an out-of-office auto reply for your email. That’s great for letting your coworkers know that no, you cannot make it to that meeting, because you’re off sipping mojitos and sunbathing in the Caribbean. But what about when your friends text you?
There used to be easier ways of telling people we were “away” from your devices. Remember AIM away messages? These days it’s harder to know if someone’s ignoring their phone, or just giving you the cold shoulder.
If you want to let people know when you can’t talk, or simply enjoy a bit of JOMO (the joy of missing out) from your texts, try these hacks to set “away messages” on your phone. They’re not quite the same as the ones on AIM, but they work in a pinch.
Download an App
On Android, try an app like Auto Reply (free). It lets you create custom away messages and set times for them to be set. Once activated, your friends will automatically begin receiving your note—like “I’m in the Bahamas!”—when they text you. The settings are pretty extensive, so you can choose the exact times you’d like away messages to be turned on and even choose which contacts you’d like to receive automated messages. If there are certain contacts you’d rather leave out, you can do that too.
Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to send messages to contacts, so you won’t be able to download an auto reply app on iOS. Other apps, like Away Messages ($0.99), make it easy to manually send an away message. Once you download the app, open up a message and click the app icon between the camera icon and the message box. Away Messages will appear here. Go to the section labeled “Reason,” where you’ll select the reason you’re away—like “on vacation,” or “in a meeting.” You can also scroll down to the custom option to add a reason and write your own message, like “bathing in JOMO.” You can create as many custom reasons with custom messages as you want. The app also has an option to provide an alternate contact, as well as a date of when you will return. Next time someone texts you and you can’t write a response, just click that app icon next to the message box and your away message will appear ready to for you to hit send.
With some adjusting, the Text Replacement feature on iOS can also let you write away messages without actually having to type them every time. Go into Settings > General > Keyboards > Text Replacement. In the top left corner, click the plus sign to create your own. You can type in an away message you might want to use like, “I’m busy right now, I’ll get back to you when I can!” In the Shortcut line, write the word that you want to automatically expand into the phrase, like “busy.” Every time you want to deploy your message, you can just type “busy” as the reply.
Another subtle solution? Turn on read receipts in iMessenger. To do this, open Settings > Messages > Send Read Receipts. It’ll let people know that you’re not ignoring them—you just haven’t caught a chance to read it yet.
Respond with Text
Finally, adjust your settings to send friends a message of your choosing when you can’t pick up their phone call. iPhones come loaded with a few boring ones: “Sorry, I can’t talk right now,” and “I’m on my way.” To add a custom one, go to Settings > Phone > Respond with Text, where you can add up to three different messages. Why not try something like: “I’m twerkin’! Talk later?”
Granted, these are not perfect solutions. They’ll save you some repetitive typing, but your phone will still need to be turned on and you will still need to press send. If you’re really going off the grid, you should probably let people know ahead of time, lest they assume the worst.