Emails and text messages go off half-cocked all the time, whether it’s a sensitive work message on which you unintentionally copied the whole company in on, or — as in Peter Dutton’s recent stuff-up — a ranty text message that went to the target of your ire rather than to a crony.
The worst part is that once an email or text message is sent, it’s sent. Generally speaking, there’s nothing constructive you can do (except apologise).
— Michael Woodhead (@mpwoodhead) January 3, 2016
Sure you could rip out the ethernet cable of your PC, toggle flight mode on or throw your phone as hard as you can at a nearby wall and hope the message hasn’t gone through, but there’s no guarantee.
Fortunately there are a number of services available that will delay the sending of your messages so you can safely cancel them if you need to, with no damage done to your social standing, your employment status or your phone.
If you’re on Gmail there’s an easy-to-use abort button already built in. Undo Send began life as an experimental “lab” add-on but gained so much popularity it’s now a core part of Gmail. On a desktop computer, simply head to your settings and look for the “Undo Send” option under the “General” tab. Here you can set a delay of between 5 and 30 seconds, and every time you send an email an “undo” option will appear for that amount of time. The option is also available on mobile devices, but only with Google’s “Inbox” app, which is available on Android and iOS.
Speaking of iOS, the default “Mail” app on your iPhone or iPad doesn’t offer this functionality at all, so beware. Ditto for the Outlook mobile app, although desktop versions of Outlook do allow you to delay your emails. It’s in the “Rules and Alerts” section of the Tools menu.
Butter-fingered Android users can breathe easy, because the range of available SMS apps means there are plenty of options for delaying messages. Popular choices Chomp and Textra both include options for delaying your SMS messages, while there are a few apps — including the aptly named Undo SMS and SMS Undo, as well as On Second Thought — which are wholly designed around the feature.
iPhone users are at a bit of a disadvantage again, as Apple controls the SMS app and has not included the ability to delay. All you can really do is make a habit to be extra vigilant and double-check each message before you send it. If you own your iPhone outright and are tech-savvy enough to jailbreak it, there are several options for delaying SMS messages available on the Cydia store, including SMS Delay, confirmSMS and BiteSMS.
Accidental postings on Twitter or Facebook can be particularly embarrassing because they have a tendency to be very public, but thankfully they’re also the easiest to remove. Twitter allows you to delete any tweet or direct message you send. As long as you do it quickly, you can usually avoid anyone seeing it (unless you’re a politician). Just select “delete” from the ellipsis menu on desktop or the menu that appears when you long press a tweet on mobile.
Facebook also allows you to get rid of anything you post publicly or on a friend’s wall, but again swiftness is key (your friends / critics will delight in screenshotting your gaffes, and it’s really, really easy). Facebook users should note that private messages cannot be erased once they are sent, so make sure you’re talking to the right person!