In the late 90s, I had just started a new job as a marketing assistant. Since the company was split up over two buildings, inter-office email was crucial to keeping in contact with co-workers. But as this WAS the late 90s, most of us were still getting our internet legs in working order, so there was still plenty of opportunity for email snafus.
I should know.
On one particular day, I was bantering back and forth with someone from the other building—another young single gal like myself—and she and I were having a grand time discussing all things young and single! Back and forth for an hour or so (you know, between stints of VERY intensive work)—and we were really hitting our stride when an all-company email went out about seating for the upcoming office holiday party. It announced that this year, due to limited space, all attendees were asked to avoid lingering in their seats after they’d eaten their meals.
Well. What peanut gallery could resist chiming in on that one? Not mine, certainly!
So, still in the rhythm of my feverish email banter, I tapped off a witty comment to send to my friend. It was so witty, in fact, so deliciously snarky, that I could hardly wait to hit the send button!
Oh, but I should have.
Because you see, dear friends, the send button sent my email to the original author of the memo, who, in case you haven’t guessed by now, was not in fact, my friend.
It was the head of the company.
I may have thrown up. I can’t recall. It was a blur. I remember gripping the arms of my chair and staring at the screen for what quite possibly felt like days. I remember my vision tunneling.
And then, it appeared. An email from the head of the company.
I think I threw up again. Or maybe I blacked out. Probably both?
Sometime after I came to, I opened it.
He could not have been more charming and gracious. His response was breezy, cheerful. (One might even say banter-esque!!) He claimed to have thought it was funny.
To this day, I still don’t know what I did on that particular morning to deserve such an email but I do know this: I am glad it happened. Glad it happened the way it did, and glad my snarky response was rated G (and by G, I mean Generally-harmless-in-nature) because the lesson I learned was a tremendously important one.
Friends, don’t let that delete button fool you. The internet and social media, for all intents and purposes, is forever. And more importantly, its reach is WIDE. There have been many times when I’ve read something galling or offensive or just kind of silly and my finger has been poised above the keyboard ready to fire back. But before I do, I take a deep breath. I think on the old adage that served me well in carpentry and one I have quoted here before: Measure twice, cut once.
I have watched authors (I know we all have) respond to bad reviews over Twitter or Facebook or other places and my gut twists a little for them. Please understand—I sympathize completely. I know how much bad reviews hurt, how cruel and unfair they always seem, but in my opinion, there is NOTHING to be gained by trying to defend one’s work (and oneself) online.
That November day, I should have paused. I should have measured twice and cut once. I didn’t, but believe you me, to this day, I do now, every time I hit send.
Have you ever regretted saying something online—either in an email or on a blog or on Twitter, for example—and wished you could take it back?