Personal Sanity Tip: If you’re angry, don’t – DON’T – hit that send button!

You just got an email or IM or phone call that has you seeing red! You rush off a long email or maybe two telling the caller/sender all that’s wrong with them and how you never want to see or hear from them again! Your finger is poised on the ‘enter’ or your mouse hovers over the ‘send’ button. Should you really send it?

The answer in short is ‘no’. Don’t send it. Why? Because in a moment of irrational reaction, you may damage a relationship – both real and virtual. Recently, I was on the receiving end of such an email, and I could see what the person wrote, I could understand why they wrote (from a follow-up email) what they did, but I also saw how this person completely misunderstood the situation, and how what they habitually did was in fact causing problems for themselves. Instead, they turned round and blamed me!

Story: I visited a blog of a blogger who has been very helpful to bloggers for a number of years, and had built something of a following of respect from those who frequented the same communities. This blogger had visited my blog several times and left (much appreciated!) comments when I faced a real dearth of comments. In return, I visited theirs as often as I could and commented on their blog in places where I thought I had something to say (I hope).

Now, commentwhen a comment is left, many types of blogs will forward those comments as an email to the blog owner to help them moderate their comments in a timely manner. WordPress does this, as does MT. This blogger would, as a thank you gesture, open the email with the comment and simply reply to the comment author, including the whole commented message. So it would look something like this graphic (identifying details have been sprayed out to perserve this person’s identity as much as possible).

Naturally, when I received an email about my comment, I wasn’t surprised. But I was unfamiliar with Moveable Type software, and assumed it was kind of login requirement, like for example, when I commented on Engadget, the comment was held in moderation until I received a confirmation email. I then had to click on that link in the email for the comment to show up on the blog.

Anyway, I didn’t see the line of text the blogger wrote to me (it is just below the word ‘me’, it’s oversprayed, but still somewhat visible!) and I misread the website links as I was in a hurry, and clicked on the website link because, for many types of websites, users who comment have to have their comment approved by verifying their mailing address. I was presented with a login, and proceeded to what I thought my login ID was.

WP blogs have registration features (unless switched off in the ‘Options’ page) that allow you to login as if you were a user on the blog, indeed registered commenters are considered users. The page looks exactly the same as the admin login page. For many users, seeing comment login pages like that link highlighted is not unusual.

Of course, I wasn’t successful as I wasn’t a registered user or commenter on the website, but I only realised my mistake when I hit ‘enter’. No harm, done, I thought. When I went to the blog post, sure enough the commented had shown up, so I thought: “Oh, it worked!”. Went about my day.

When I got home, I was quite shocked and surprised by an email that had been written in the heat of the moment, which accused me of trying to hack their blog. The email began innocuously enough with the words “You were on it today”, though.

Turned out that their blog had been a target of upto 30 hacking attempts each day; and that particular day, the blog had come under more intensive attack than before. When my name popped up, naturally I was the object of suspicion. And in this blogger’s frustration, the email was written and sent before better judgement had set in, like why would someone use their ‘real’ name to hack a blog?! Then leave a complete trail of evidence behind! Mmm.

I was not wise enough to leave alone, but added some fuel to the fire, by replying – “I’m also suprised that you would think I would want to hack your website. Do you honestly think I wanted to hack your website? If you had thought that, do you really think I would use my own ID? Really, how dumb could I be?”

I ended the email: “I can only hope you pushed the ‘send’ button in a moment of anger. For your blog’s sake, I can only hope that you didn’t send it to all the commenters who did the same thing I did.”

Of course, I also regret my hasty reply, and the blogger had the good grace to apologize for the mistaken assumption. However, such hasty and ill-thought out emails as this one kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And turning on your commenters like that isn’t going to win friendship among bloggers, especially if you are using a DOFOLLOW plugin!

So, if you receive an email or want to send some vitriol, write it if you must but save it in the drafts folder for 24 hours so you have time to think it through. Then, go back edit it carefully or delete it. Above all, make sure that your assumptions and facts are correct! If you are still unsure about sending it, then don’t. Just don’t, DON’T, hit that send button!