John Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2011

Delayed ‘Send’ button could lower world’s anger level

My sister-in-law, Rita, and I have been talking about an idea for lowering the world’s anger level: a delayed action “send” button.

We hearken back to the days when people occasionally communicated by written letter. One common sense belief in those days was that if you wrote a letter when you were mad, it was a good idea to put it in a drawer overnight and read it again in the morning before you sent it. Many such letters remained in the drawer or found their way to the trash can when read again in the cool light of the morning.

Today’s e-mail and social media makes it too easy to “send” vitriolic diatribes without thinking over what is actually stated. Once it’s gone, it’s out there.

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Of course, the old telephone itself also raised the level of anger among us. With the telephone came, with the recipient of our message very much removed from our presence, the ability to spout out in choice expletives the very first thing that came to mind, accelerating forever the speak-before-you-think society we’ve become.

With today’s social media, when the first thing that comes to our mind is quickly — via keyboard/keypad/whatever — converted into “printed” words, they take on more import when they are read by the recipient. Happens in the newspaper, too. Often, when people see the words they have spoken aloud in a public meeting attributed them as a quote in a story, they discover that the weight of their words was greater than they thought.

The recipient of the instant message sees a weight in the printed — screened or whatever — word that the sender is perhaps not fully aware of.

There’s where the delayed send button would be helpful. If every message sent required a review after several hours or overnight, maybe some would not get sent and society’s anger level would fall by a few degrees.

Of course, a delayed send button might not be help enough for the growing epidemic of texted and sexted images hurtling about cyberspace.

That’s not a button problem, it’s a zipper problem.