I am very grateful for a successful 40+-year career in communications. Technology, however, has sometimes taken my perfectly crafted message and thrown me right under the Schoolhouse Rock bus! The message is crystal clear, the word choices are both sesquipedalian and vernacular, the conjunctions are junctioned, AND I ACCIDENTLY SEND IT TO THE WRONG PERSON!
Granted, this isn’t a horrible thing when we’re talking about an update on Los Angeles County real estate metrics. It IS a horrible thing when you’re supporting a friend who just bitched about their sister and you include the sister on the thread because you still don’t know how to use that pesky little “@” symbol properly.
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time my fingers worked faster than my brain. It has happened many times, over every medium. Email, text, social media – I’m pretty sure that had I been the one in charge of the smoke-signal warnings along the Great Wall of China, I would have somehow told the Mongol cavalry exactly where and how to breach. My husband has heard, “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit …” countless times when I’m texting, and my best friend barely communicates electronically because she’s been so traumatized by my stories of shame.
And I’m clearly not alone. In a survey of more than 1,000 people, nearly 45 percent of those sending text messages accidentally sent their conversations to the person they were talking about. When I searched “what to do when you send a text to the wrong person” about 5,910,000,000 results were delivered to me in less than 1 second.
Unfortunately, despite five billion answers, not one of them can tell you how to retract an iphone text message once it has been received. But there are some suggestions.
So, can you unsend a text message?
I reached out to Apple recently to see if there was ANY WAY you could redact a text message. It was the millionth time I reached out to them. I have a direct line. They know me. And every time the answer is the same – you can’t do it (“, Nikki. so please stop calling us and just slow down from now on!”).
BUT, if you’re faster than the speed of light AND you know how to quickly access Airplane Mode, AND you happen to be in an area with the worst WiFi reception in the world, then it is possible to stop a text that you sent from reaching the inbox of the recipient. Here’s how:
IMMEDIATELY put your phone into airplane mode. If you’re successful, the message will fail to send, allowing you to delete it.
My experience? Good luck. I tried this a few times and here’s what I found out:
- I have amazing WiFi service (thanks Verizon?)
- Be careful when you’re trying this technique. Chances are it won’t work, so think carefully about those practice text comments
For what it’s worth, there was a rumor in June, 2020 that the iPhone 14 would include a feature that would “retract iMessages after sending them, with the retraction visible to both parties. Fine print visible to both the sender and recipients would indicate that a message has been retracted.” My fingers have been crossed for 15 months now (but it still hasn’t stopped me from sending texts to the wrong people!).
TigerText for “Spies and Cheaters”
There are messaging apps that allow you to undo mistakes. Evidently there was a great app called “TigerText” that allowed you to retract unread messages, set a time limit after which text messages would self-destruct and be wiped from the original phone, the receiving phone, and the server.
I learned about TigerText in the aptly named article, “TigerText: The App for Spies and Cheaters.” However, after CBS chief Les Moonves and his executive team were accused of deleting critical messages in their legal battle with Shari Redstone (“What Is TigerText, the App CBS Execs Are Accused of Using to Delete Communications?“) the app was evidently rebranded as “TigerConnect” and is now used by physicans and hospitals as a messaging app fully compliant with HIPPA regulations (😳).
I have a feeling that if I had TigerConnect on my phone, I’d be breaking HIPAA regulations left and right.
If you happen to be texting with someone on WhatsApp (you’re both using the app), there is a way to recall a message sent by mistake on your mobile phone if the recipient hasn’t read it yet. All you do is go to the chat window, hold down on the text you want to remove and tap “delete.” If the recipient has already read the message it will only be deleted from your chat window … not theirs. Bummer.
Even so, I wish everyone I knew used WhatsApp. It sounds like I might have a chance with this one!
Apologize, forgive yourself, and try not to do it again
So what can you do when you sent a text to someone without meaning to? I found lots of articles and posts offering excuses and lies for misdirected texts. There are some incredibly creative suggestions for this (Hey! I just sent a message to you that was meant for (name another person). Could you please forward that to them? Or there’s this one: Check out my last text I sent to ( so and so) I just sent you. What do you think?) In the study above, just over 33 percent of people who sent a text to the wrong person used some combination of pretending it didn’t happen, blaming someone else for using their device, making up a lie, or simply saying nothing.
But even though it is soul-crushingly difficult to own up to the mistake, it is ultimately the best solution. In fact, 57.4 percent of people who sent a text message to the wrong person apologized for their error. Yes, it’s nauseating. Yes, you might even lose a friend (1 in 5 people report that a relationship has been negatively affected by an unintended text), but a sincere apology can “heal humiliation and foster reconciliation and forgiveness.” And even though you might still feel horrible … doesn’t the person you hurt deserve your apology?
(Care to share your experiences? Feel free to leave a comment below.)
10.25.2021 Update!!! I just tried to “undo” a message on Facebook Messenger, and it works! You and the recipient see that the ,message has been unsent … but hey, that’s a WHOLE LOT BETTER than what it COULD say!!