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Think Before You Hit Send To Avoid Text Regret


It's happened to the best of us - we type out a text, hit send, and then immediately wish we hadn't. Americans send more than 6 billion texts every day, so it's no wonder that incidents of text regret are on the rise. A number of smartphone apps are helping us cover our tracks. But as Rebecca Sheir of member station WAMU reports, the most effective tool in warding off text regret might be ourselves.

REBECCA SHEIR, BYLINE: Shuo Song was visiting Chicago for one night for work and had plans to meet up with a friend. He was exhausted when he got to town, so he canceled. But then he took himself out for ramen.

SHUO SONG: And then the next day she texts me and she says, oh, hey, how was your night? And without even thinking, I said, oh, hey it was great. I had a great bowl of ramen at this restaurant. And that was definitely a text that I would like back.

SHEIR: Liz Odar knows that feeling well. She lives in Arlington, Va., where the winter has been particularly brutal. So when her mom texted from Florida, with a photo of seagulls flocking on a sunny sandy beach, Liz snapped.

LIZ ODAR: I walked to my front door, and I flipped off the snow and the cold air, and took a picture of it.

SHEIR: She texted her mom the picture along with the words here's a bird of my own.

ODAR: Almost immediately, like, after I hit send I thought, oh, no. Is my mom going to think that I'm flipping her off? Like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

SHEIR: Speaking of moms, here's what happened to Antoine Lovelace, in Atlanta, Ga.

ANTOINE LOVELACE: I was talking about my mother in a text message and actually sent the text message to my mom.

SHEIR: But here's the thing - Antoine was able to take his text back. He uses an app called On Second Thought, which gives you up to 60 seconds to un-send a message. That's different from apps like TigerText or Strings, where you can erase a message once it goes out. Strings creators claim once you delete a text, it's truly gone, not stored on a cloud server somewhere. But with On Second Thought, your message never even leaves your phone, which may sound great, but...

ALLISON DRUIN: It is a crutch.

SHEIR: That's Allison Druin of the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies. She worries we'll become too reliant on apps like On Second Thought.

DRUIN: Instead of stopping people from doing the wrong thing, how can we help people learn to communicate in more appropriate ways?

SHEIR: One way is by thinking more carefully about what we put out there and how quickly we do it.

DRUIN: We have tools that let us instantly send things, tell things, we never could in the past. So as I get older, I don't get wiser. I get more cautious.

SHEIR: That means resisting the urge to over-share, which she believes more and more of us are falling victim to.

DRUIN: It's just like being a kid and knowing that I drew this, but it's really not real until I put it on the refrigerator. And when mom puts it on the refrigerator, it's real.

SHEIR: Shuo Song, our ramen-loving text regretter, agrees, not that he doesn't think an app like On Second Thought could be helpful.

SONG: But I think a better exercise might be to just force yourself to think twice before hitting send. Having those moments where you are confronted with something that you don't feel proud of can be healthy in small doses.

SHEIR: And he should know. After texting his friend that comment about the ramen, Shuo spent the next handful of texts apologizing. For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Sheir in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Sheir