Smartphones are incredible social tools. They give us the power to ignore other people like never before. In fact, not having to ever speak to humans might just be the best part. Here's how to block everyone, every time, without ever facing any consequences.
This best part of this pocket power to push people into oblivion is that it works equally well against foes and strangers. Screening calls is a universal experience—but you have to do it right, or else you're just that dick who never answers the phone or replies to any texts. You can't just be unavailable, you have to be unseen. Unconsidered. A shadow. Your phone is a stealth bomber, your voice a breeze, your inbox an abyss. Here's how to screen texts with grace, deflect iMessages nimbly, and decline every call as you would blow seed fuzz off a dandelion.
The next great version of iPhone's software make it easy to blow everyone off, because these introvert features are not part of the phone. Even better—it makes it more socially acceptable, too. With the ease of taking a picture, you can now swipe to simultaneously block a call and send an excuse text. This is perfect, as it saves you the labor of having to craft a custom excuse—just preload several catchall excuses, and you've got a swipe-and-go panacea.
Apple's stock auto-replies are pretty good—particularly "I'm on my way" for when you're inevitably late and don't feel like catching shit for it. But make sure you customize these dispatches so that it's not completely obvious that you're using a software feature expressly designed to ignore people who call you. "What's up?", for instance, is a rude and uninspired way to textually deflect a call. If you wanted to know what's up, you might have answered the phone. But you didn't. Instead of a question, give an immediate answer to the question of why the hell are you not answering my call—something that vaguely refers to you being busy or preoccupied.
- "Hey, I'm in the middle of something, can I call you back?"
- "Hey, I'm on a bus and someone next to me is sleeping, can't talk."
- "Yo, on the sidewalk and it's really loud, what's happening?"
- "Hey, sorry, I'm in the middle of something, what's going on?"
The point is to give yourself plausibile deniability about straight-up ignoring the call. Of course you ignored the call. You both know it. But if you have even the semblance of a real reason to not pick up, society lets you off the hook. Don't ask why it works that way—it's just the way we've all been warped.
Note: You can acquire a beta version of iOS 6 on some of the darker corners of the internet without much trouble. If you're not an iPhone person, Android Ice Cream Sandwich also packs auto-reply, but it won't decline the call at the same time—it'll just keep ringing. This isn't quite as convincing. It'll blow your cover if you're somehow able to send a text while ignoring your phone. We recommend just declining the call and manually replying with one of the fake busy messages suggested above.
Furthering iOS 6's shroud of silence is the new "Do Not Disturb" mode, which keeps your phone turned on, but won't ring (unless the caller is on a whitelist, or tries calling repeatedly, presumably due to emergency super crisis). But this is asking for trouble. Even if you think it's a normal time to not be disturbed—which really, should be about any time after 6 pm—your friends might disagree, and be upset about the no-pickup. You can try saying, "but I had iOS 6 Do Not Disturb mode enabled!" That excuse might get you punched in the stomach.
Remember in The Matrix, when Morpheus' apocalypse boat had that button he could press to trigger an EMP? Remember how it screwed up all the evil robots, and Morpheus could keep cruising while Neo and Trinity got their sex on? (I haven't watched The Matrix in a while). Your phone's Airplane Mode is sort of like that, only your friends are the bad guys from The Matrix and you're Trinity and Neo boning. When you switch it on, you'll be able to do pretty much everything fun with your phone—games, email, internet—while blocking out phone calls and texts. Anyone who gives you a ring will go straight to voicemail, and there are pretty much an infinite number of excuses for this.
- Your battery was dead!
- You didn't have service!
- You were actually on a flying airplane!
Any of these are plausible, and all of them are enough to shake the heat off should someone demand an answer for your lack of rings. "Ah, sorry man, my phone was dead."
Enabling Airplane Mode as a nightly habit is also a smart way to deter potential callers—if you're known as someone whose phone is off every night, people won't even bother.
Warning! If you use iMessage and have Wi-Fi enabled in Airplane Mode, you'll still be reachable—and FaceTime will work, too.
21st century human nature 101: we hate dealing with things or thinking about them. That's what smartphones have done to us—thanks, jerks. The upshot of this is that it's easy to dazzle your friends with a bunch of gibberish if you can't think of something that could even, sort of, be a legitimate excuse. The alternative to the brusque I'm Busy Text is the radical opposite: just ramble your way out. Provide a story so sprawling and confusing that it's not worth breaking down and replying to. Your friends will just lose consciousness and probably not remember what they wanted from you in the first place.
OK—you're trapped in a call. It happened. You picked up! Why? Maybe by accident. Maybe out of crippling guilt. Maybe it was The President and you're on a Secret Mission to Save the Republic. But now you're regretting it, and you can't find a hole in the conversation through which to bail. It shouldn't ever come to this, but if it does, here's your behind-enemy-lines-cellular-cyanide-capsule-in-the-molar: hold down the power button.
There's no honor in this method, but it works. Keep talking naturally, pull the trigger, and wait for your phone to shut off. Time it so that you're the one talking when you hit the power—that way it'll sound like your phone naturally died, or you lost your signal, as your garbled word is snapped off mid-sentence. When your interlocutor immediately calls you back, they'll be hit with an instant voicemail wall—and hey, your phone just probably died.
Now, we should all reflect and acknowledge that with great power comes great responsibility, and a great chance of gradually turning off your friends to the point where they won't want to talk to you anymore. This is either your idea of paradise or purgatory, but we can promise one thing—whatever you call it, there are no hassles there. Beautiful silence. Now finish that game of Temple Run and embrace the sublime.
User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Friday.