Send – Oops!

by Bella Rum

Digital Age Tip: Never send an email or message unfit for the eyes of the world.~ Tweeted by Leo Babauta

Sound advice, but probably not followed by most of us. “Unfit” can mean a lot of things. How about (in this case) private? We don’t want the eyes of the world to see everything we send in emails. Do we? That begs the question. Are you always a hundred percent certain that your private email is addressed to the correct recipient before hitting send? Have you ever slipped up?

My oldest friend wrote an email that was not exactly “unfit for the eyes of the world,” but it was intended for my eyes only. She clicked send and immediately uttered a string of expletives. At the very instant it began hurtling through cyberspace, she realized she’d sent it to the wrong person. Can you imagine? Maybe you can.

The results were not catastrophic but a little uncomfortable. She was sharing her perspective about a particular event that she had no intention of sharing with the unintended recipient – her daughter.

In the past, the written word was often more contemplative than the spoken word. People wrote with intention, they sat at a desk or table, chose a pen, stationary and composed a letter.

The digital age encourages us to spin off a short missive in the blink of an eye. We often don’t give a lot of consideration to what we’ve written, or how it may be interpreted without the subtle distinction of facial expressions or the tone in the voice. We sometimes put a smiley face after a certain phrase because we know it could be misinterpreted. I know I’ve been guilty of all these things. Forget about punctuation. It has arrived at a quick and painful death in many of my emails.

We have letters that my husband’s parents wrote to each other during World War II. They are beautiful and thoughtful. They were written with care and intention, BUT my mother-in-law’s last request of me was to get the letters out of their hiding place. She wanted us to have them, but she wanted us to keep them private. They were intended for our eyes only.

Email words don’t have time to simmer and settle in our brainpans while we’re looking for an envelope, addressing it or placing a stamp on it. We seldom take even a minute to ponder what we’ve written or how it will be received. This is not to say that many snail mail letters haven’t been placed in mailboxes by authors who later regretted mailing their contents, but in the digital age, we can make a horse’s behind of ourselves faster than a child’s shoestring can snag in an escalator, and the consequences can be just as disagreeable. We can’t pull it back and we can’t find a cubbyhole in which to hide it till future generations find it, hoping that with time and distance, they will judge us less harshly.