The sole remaining reason to use a BlackBerry is BBM—and now, the iPhone's got its own version. It's better than texting, but it comes with some potentially terrifying social vortexes to navigate. Here's how to own iMessage, stress-free.
Let people know when you've read their messages (most of the time)
Anyone still BBMing will tell you the convenience is tempered by the potential burden of people knowing when you've read their messages. iMessage displays when a message has been delivered through Apple's servers—which is great to alleviate the uncertainty of unreliable cell networks. But iMessage also displays the exact time at which your IM's been read. This can be tricky. It can lead to some tension. But it's also one of the neatest parts of iMessage—a way of feeling better connected to the friends, coworkers, and everyone else you're linking up with through your phone. The knowledge that someone's read exactly what you wrote to them in realtime is very gratifying. But it's only fun if everyone's in on it—so keep it on, unless you're going to be busy for a while and won't be able to respond within a reasonable span of time. This way, friends won't get the idea that you're down for a live conversation when you're not.
Note: To switch on/off message read notifications, go to Settings > Messages > Send Read Receipts.
Don't throw a fit if your friends don't reply immediately
This is a problem for plain old SMSers, but much, much worse now that you've got iMessage: people get pissed when you don't reply. It's an absolute truth of digital conversation. None of us have any patience, and if we don't get immediate replies to texts or IMs, we take it personally.
For every conceivable message you concoct, there's a panoply of valid reasons why someone can't respond within a few minutes. Or even sometimes within a few hours.
But more importantly, sometimes we just don't feel like texting back right away. That's perfectly fine. We aren't slaves to our phones—even when they've got iMessage.
It's easy to avoid someone you hate
Luckily, iOS 5 has a nice little loophole built in when you want to dodge someone you can't stand—because not everyone hitting you up is someone you want to talk to. If you want to screen iMessages without letting anyone know you've read them, just read them from the swipe-down Notification Center. Just make sure Messages are stuck into the notification pane (Settings > Notifications > "In Notification Center"), and you're all set for social stealth.
Caveat: You won't be able to (secretly) read long messages in their entirety from the Notification Center.
When you've started typing, finish your thought
When I start to write you an iMessage, an ellipsis symbol by my name on your phone indicates I'm writing—much like AIM and GChat have always worked. This is another nifty way to make a stale old text conversation feel live (and lively). But telling your partner you've started typing—and then not sending anything—is the equivalent of doorbell ditching. Don't blue ball your interlocutors. If you start something, finish it—even if you just say "hold on" and stall, it's rude to leave people hanging.
Don't be annoying with GIFs
iMessage lets you talk with animated GIFs! Which is awesome, but potentially obnoxious. Dont spam your friends, as it'll slow down their phone when they try to message you back. All things in moderation.
You can keep up with Sam Biddle, the author of this post, on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.