Lauren Leto has seen the very worst of text messaging.
In 2009, Leto founded Texts From Last Night, a website that re-posts snippets of text message conversations. The site grew into a multimillion-dollar company, spawning book deals and a dedicated following among college students.
But that experience taught Leto a thing or two about texting, and some of the issues with messaging platforms in general.
So she decided to launch a new company: Listen.
Listen is a mobile app that lets you adopt a new phone number that Leto encourages you to think of like a Twitter handle. You can give out that phone number to anyone you want, but when they contact you, it will route through the Listen app.
When you get a text through Listen, you have the option to mute the sender — like how you can mute people on Twitter without unfollowing them — set reminders with text, or swipe right to store any information within the conversation to the contact’s profile.
You can also set up a temporary voice message for when people call you and set an autoresponse for text messages, much like an away message on AOL Instant Messenger.
Essentially, Listen lets you control how and when people can contact you by phone.
“When my friend text messages me, I have to text message her back — I can’t let these things fall by the wayside,” Leto told Business Insider. “But at the same time, all the expectation is on you and it’s all going through your most direct access line.”
Listen launched on the Apple App Store on Thursday and will be coming to the Google Play Store by the second quarter of 2017. The app is free to download and free to use.
Leto has been working on the app for two years, testing out several different iterations before landing on the right idea. What appealed to her about Listen was the ability to set boundaries while still following common etiquette around texting and calling.
“Blocking someone on the phone, there’s a social contract there,” Leto said. “You can’t just block that friend that’s annoying, but texting is a lot and we’re all busy. My friend will be like, ‘What do you think for the bachelorette party?’ and I’m like, ‘It’s in August!'”
For anyone who has trouble shifting out of work mode at the end of the day — or for introverts who just need a break — Listen could be the solution.
“I think that it’s crazy that with your phone, you’re always expected to be on,” Leto said. “While it’s true that you’re always on it, you’re not always mentally on. And this is a way of taking that pressure off.”
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