Web Insight: responding to online messages — when should users reply?

How quickly should one reply to a personal message received online? What is the appropriate length of time? And has the perceived appropriate length changed over the years?

We have asked this question in our Digital Future Survey since 2012. In 2018, 32% of internet users in our study said that one should reply as soon as possible. Twenty-seven percent replied that one day was the acceptable length. Another 12% responded that two to three days would be appropriate. The only other response to garner more than 10% of respondents was whenever one can get around to it, which was given by 18%.

Has the perceived appropriate length of time been changing over time? There is no strong trend of change. Those answering as soon as possible climbed as high as 43% in 2016, but this number went down to 32% in 2018. This two-year tumble was almost matched by the increase of those replying whenever one can get around to it, which went from 10% in 2016 to 18% in 2018.

Does this mean that recently people have been getting more relaxed about the importance of responding relatively quickly to online personal messages? It is too soon to say, but we will keep an eye on this possibility.


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December 2, 2019