A Google search for "mooning" pulls up expected results: some news articles about protestors pulling down their pants, and the formal dictionary definition of said act — "to expose one's buttocks to (someone) in order to insult or amuse them." Even Urban Dictionary, that harbinger of culturally relevant (and often NSFW) terms, refers to "mooning" as a butt-baring action. But a whole new mooning meaning has developed that has nothing to do with naked butts: It has, instead, to do with your iPhone. When you moon someone or a group of people, you effectively silence the texting conversation by putting it in Do Not Disturb mode. But it's being called mooning in reference to the light grey moon that appears to the left of the conversation in your Messages folder, signifying that thread's Do Nod Disturb status.
Mooning someone is easy enough: All you have to do is press the "i" icon at the top right of the text message thread, toggle "Do Not Disturb" to the right, and then you won't receive notifications for their messages until you turn it off. The messages will still be there, but they won't cause your phone to light up every two seconds, which can be annoying during a meeting or when you're trying to fall asleep. "It's the way we must negotiate our lives, since many of us are inundated with texts," says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas. "It's easier for us to moon people than to block them. Blocking feels more aggressive — you don't want to block your mother." If blocking is one extreme and ghosting, an intentional disappearing act associated with dates gone wrong, is another, mooning occupies the grey area in between — you're staying present in conversations, but just taking a break. "I have multiple group texts with the same five to six people, and my friends are popping off most of the day with what they ate and how their dates went and their general stream of consciousness," says Sara Sowell, 24. "Mooning helps me focus while at work and prevents me from waking up in the middle of the night. When I am walking to the train in the morning or feel like I need to be supported by my friends, I catch up and engage with them." Other women I spoke with mentioned similar reasoning behind their "mooning," although a few said that they've mooned OkCupid dates who couldn't take a hint, putting them in a sort of text-message purgatory. Some women moon friends who live on opposite coasts and have a tendency to text in the middle of the night. Others moon family members who boost their stress levels at unwelcome times.
I moon her — out of love.
"My sister tends to like planning and will text me about planning things at all hours," says Erin, 24, who asked that her name be changed for this piece so that her sister isn't clued in to her silencing. "I do not want to read these texts one hour before I go to bed because they make me nervous, so I moon her — out of love." Mooning is rarely a hostile act — that's what blocking is for — but Gottsman points out that you want to think carefully about whom you moon. You wouldn't, for example, want to moon your boss or an important work connection, since doing so could have direct consequences on your job. But, as long as you remember to turn the Do Not Disturb switch back off and catch up on the conversation at some point, mooning is harmless. Although you might want to refrain from admitting to your mooning, unless you know the person on the other end of the line won't take offence.