Seeing when someone was last online inside an app can help you figure out whether or not they’re available to chat, and can also give you pointers as to whether they’re ignoring your messages or just haven’t gotten around to replying yet. But if you don’t like your status being broadcast to your contacts like this, there are ways of turning it off.
There is typically a trade-off here: If you don’t want your contacts to see when you’re online or when messages have been read, then you won’t be able to see their online status or read receipts either. You may well consider that an acceptable compromise if it means other people don’t know when you are and when you aren’t picking up your phone.
In the mobile app, tap Settings (iOS) or the three dots up in the top right corner and then Settings (Android). Then, select Account, Privacy, and Last seen. You’ve got four different options here, which are fairly self-explanatory: Everyone, My contacts, My contacts except..., and Nobody. You can choose to share your online status with a select number of people (and get their online status back in return) via the My contacts except... option.
The iMessage platform in Messages on the iPhone doesn’t broadcast your online or offline status to your contacts like some other instant messenger apps, but it does have read receipts—from the main iOS Settings app, you can select Messages and then turn the Send Read Receipts toggle switch off. You can also do this for individual chats by tapping the header at the top of a conversation to find the Send Read Receipts toggle switch.
Google Chat is the opposite of iMessage in this particular area: There’s no setting to control read receipts, but you can tell your contacts what your online status is (or isn’t). Open up the mobile app, tap the three lines up in the top left corner, and then select your current status (it may well say Active). Rather than having this as Automatic (based on your activity), change it to Set as away or a custom status of your own choosing.
From the main conversation list in the Facebook Messenger app on your phone, tap your profile picture (top left), then pick Active status: You get a simple Show when you’re active toggle switch that you can turn on or off. This applies across all the various places you might have Facebook and Facebook Messenger installed, but if you turn it off, it doesn’t affect your ability to message other people or anything else you do on Facebook.
Like the other apps that Facebook (now Meta) runs, Instagram shows your online status and when you were last active by default. To change this, tap your profile picture in the mobile app (bottom right), then the three lines (top right), then Settings and Privacy: Choose Activity status and you get a Show activity status toggle switch to hide your current status—and it looks very similar to the one that you get in Facebook Messenger.
Signal doesn’t show your contacts when you were last online or whether you’re currently using the app, most probably in the interests of user privacy. It does, however, offer read receipts, which can give other people an idea of when you last accessed the app. If you’d rather this wasn’t the case, tap the three dots (top right) while in the app, then select Settings, then Privacy, and you can turn off both Read receipts and Typing indicators inside your chats.
If you’re a Telegram user, from inside the mobile app, head to Settings by tapping the three lines up in the top left corner of the main chat list screen. Pick Privacy and Security to find the Last Seen & Online option: Your choices are Everybody, My Contacts or Nobody, and you can also use the Never Share With option underneath if you want to select a particular person or group of people who won’t be able to see your current status.