You Texted? I Hadn’t Noticed.

Annie Wu Henry hasn’t gotten a notification on her phone in two years. Calls go straight to voice mail. Apps vibrate their updates into the ether. Texts pile up silently. Same with emails. They have to wait until she decides to look at her device next.

That’s because of Do Not Disturb mode, a phone setting that acts as a modern-day away message for smartphone users, cautioning those who contact you that you’re likely to take a while to return their messages.

“It’s expectation setting,” said Ms. Henry, a 28-year-old digital strategist who worked to elect Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. “If I don’t get to it, it’s not personal. I’m just busy.” (She noted that she had notifications on when she was managing his social media during the 2022 campaign — but only then.)

“If it’s important, they will send the message or try to make the call or get in touch with me in one way or another,” she continued. “And if it’s not, maybe it’ll just give them a second to think about if it’s actually important.”

The modern phone seems to never stop vibrating, pinging and lighting up in an unending quest for our attention. Short of turning the phone off and rendering it a useless brick, there’s little one can do to get distance from a device. That’s where Do Not Disturb mode comes in.

When the setting is enabled on an iPhone, any would-be texters see a disclaimer that the person they are trying to contact has notifications silenced. Beneath that is a tempting offer: “Notify Anyway.” If clicked, the notification will go through as it normally would, but the message seems clear enough: Don’t expect an answer, at least not right away.

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