Why Use Time Zones in Chat Apps?

Picture of clocks with different timezones

With today’s globalization, we must be more aware of the different time zones our contacts live in. Understanding time differences can lead to stronger relationships and global networks.

A Complication in International Messaging

As people are using the internet more for their communication, our networks and social circles are expanding out of our countries. Nevertheless, with such easy access to global connectivity, we naturally hit new bumps in the road. As we continue to grow our social networks, how can we make sure to stay considerate of others’ local time zones?

Time Zone Troubles – What Time is “Now?”

Modern messaging applications like Skype, WhatsApp, Sidekick (soon), and Zoom allow us not only to message users around the world, but even voice and video call with them.

Depending on the strength of one’s connection, these calls may run as smoothly as though they were made to someone living nearby! As such, especially if building a list of potential business contacts, it’s of vital importance that we remain aware of which times are most convenient for those receiving our messages.

This may seem easy, but when dealing with people from all corners of the world, the right tools can make or break a potential deal. For this reason, it’s ideal that our messaging applications support “local times,” so that when you check the conversation, you can see the local time of the person you’re messaging.

For example, if it’s 9 AM in New York, and you wish to speak to a supplier in China, you’ll probably have a difficult time finding anyone still at the office at 9 PM.

Time zones are important.

What Are Time Zones?

A time zone is essentially the local time of a region or country. If you happen to be in a country that is relatively close to the equator, then you’re probably used to having the sun rise at around 6 AM and set at around 6-7 PM. However, while you’re appreciating the sunset, a country across the globe will be experiencing their sunrise.

Why Do We Have Time Zones?

It’s because of the Earth’s rotation and the times at which certain regions receive light that we created time zones to help us keep track of where and when the sun will be. Although, some countries, like Russia, have such large landmasses that the country may pass through several different time zones.

How Do Time Zones Work?

The different time zones are measured based on a relative Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), that begins at the prime meridian (0º longitude; London). From this line, time zones move up or down hourly every 15 degrees, following the mean solar time. So, 15 degrees West of the UTC would be -1 hour (Cape Verde), while 15 degrees East would be +1 hour (Denmark).

To illustrate, if it’s 6 PM in London, then in Sweden (15 degrees East) it’s 7 PM. At the same time in Greenland (45 degrees West) it’s 4 PM.

How Do Time Zones Affect Business?

Business is based on relationships. As such, contacting suppliers overseas or clients around the world requires a certain tact for different time zones. Unfortunately, most messaging applications don’t cater to this.

Why is This Important in Messaging?

If you check on your ‘sent messages’ you’ll find that it gives you a time based on your app, location or device settings. Therefore, if you sent a message at 2 PM, you’ll see that time displayed on your record of ‘sent messages.’ However, this fails to notify you of the local time of the receiving party.

Say, for example, that you’re living in Seattle, and you send a message to your supplier at 2 PM. If your supplier is local then you may receive an immediate reply. If your supplier is in China, however, then you’re sending them a message at 5 AM, and shouldn’t feel frustrated if they don’t answer you back for 4 hours or more.

How Can We Use Time Zones in Chat Apps?

Though many people can adapt to this perspective of time pretty quickly, for some it’s a bit more difficult. The frustration resulting from this misunderstanding of schedules could be easily avoided, however, if our messaging applications allowed us to see the local time of the other party.

It would be as simple as sending the message to your supplier in China and on the screen you see: “Sent 2 PM (5 AM ‘contact name’).” This small change could save you time and frustration and could ultimately lead to much greater efficiency in communication with suppliers, business partners, and friends or family overseas.

A Little Tool Can Have a Great Impact

Understanding the relative difference in time around the globe can be an invaluable asset. By simply understanding which are the best times for our contacts and what times those would be relative to ours, we can solidify stronger relationships.

As you proceed to grow your social circle and perhaps delve into business or other lucrative ventures, remember to keep in mind that a useful app could make the difference between a considerate message and a 3 AM wake-up call.

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