How to avoid social media regret

It’s important to check your messages before you hit send…

Have you ever been so annoyed that you’ve fired off an angry message to someone, by phone or on social media, only to massively regret it moments later? If so, you’re not alone. Many people have experienced that sinking feeling when you realise you’ve overreacted or jumped to conclusions – and, as a consequence of your actions, possibly changed a relationship with someone forever. It could be an angry rant via texts or on social media, written in the heat of the moment and designed to hurt a particular person or group of people. Another common situation that gets people in trouble is writing things that are meant to be humorous but instead end up causing offence – and even if you suddenly realise this and retract or delete social media posts or messages, they could have been widely shared or forwarded already.

Being able to send messages in an instant is one of the best inventions ever, making communication open and easy, but there are many reasons why you should always take a breath and check them before sending. Here are a few things to remember before hitting that send button…

1. Do not press send until you’re sure

If you’re ever in a situation where you’re writing an angry message, take a moment to remember these words: do not press send. It’s okay to feel annoyed and to let all that anger out in writing. Writing down your feelings helps to get rid of all that unwanted negative emotion, plus seeing it written down in front of you might help to give you a different perspective on the issue. If you’re using a messaging service on your phone or a computer for this, leave the ‘to’ field blank – that way, you’re less likely to accidentally send it or become tempted to when your anger is strong. You might want to share what you’ve written, but all you’ll get is a temporary feeling of victory and accomplishment before the doubts begin to creep in. Did you do the right thing? Was that person really to blame? Did you genuinely mean those nasty comments? Have you overreacted? By the time you’ve calmed down, you’ll probably realise you shouldn’t have sent that message, but it’s too late. 

2. Take a break

Once your emotions are out of your head and onto the screen, take a break from the situation. Go out for a walk or, if it’s late at night, go to bed. As the old saying goes, everything seems different in the morning. After you’ve had time to consider what you’ve written, take a little while to think again about whether or not to send it, whether to rewrite it, or if it might help to speak to the person face to face.

3. Look from another point of view

After you have taken a break from the issue and if you still want to send a strong or even controversial message, talk to someone who knows you well who will give you an honest perspective and may make you rethink the situation. If you’re still set on sending it, make sure you have the facts correct and the tone is appropriate. Things written down can easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Angry words can sound over the top or even threatening. Humour could be read as sarcasm or offensive if not understood. Emojis may not always save you in those situations, so it’s good to get a second opinion.

4. Face up to it

Sometimes it’s easy to hide behind your keyboard – but at some point you will have to see that person in the real world, so don’t write anything that you wouldn’t say to their face. It may be that you have to alter the formality of your message to suit the relationship you have with that person or that you have to spend more time crafting your message to ensure it’s received with its true intention. Also take note of the style of your message, including your punctuation and use of capital letters. Lots of exclamation marks could suggest you’re shouting rather than trying to say something funny (that’s why journalists call them screamers!). Likewise, if you write things in capital letters, it can look like you’re YELLING AT SOMEONE. It’s also important to consider that while some messages and posts can be deleted in an instant, they can be forwarded or screenshotted by others just as quickly. It doesn’t take long for a particular message or post to go viral.

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