Gmail’s Unsend is a Poor Replacement Option

Yesterday Google announced an update for Gmail that allows users to unsend emails. The setting has been in the test phase for a few years, but it is now in the spotlight as a main feature within Gmail. Many users seem to rejoice at the availability of this option, but for all of the wrong reasons.

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The premise of the feature is simple: setup a time length (10, 20, or 30 seconds) for how long you have to “unsend” a message in your Gmail account. This option is great if you see a last minute typo or think of something helpful to add to the message, but that’s about it it.

Some people likely are thinking of this Unsend feature as a way to prevent regret. But unfortunately, that still has to be done the old fashioned way: wisdom.

The Old Ways Still Work

In today’s digital age, it is all too easy to fire off a tweet, email, or update in the heat of a moment. Multitudes of people, whether famous or unknown, have had to apologize for inappropriate comments online. The instant nature of our culture seems to encourage that we post as soon as it enters our brain.

But that is a poor way to act online, because just as it is in the real world, our digital world requires the same level of thoughtfulness and wisdom in what we say. I would argue that it requires more thought than saying something out loud, because posting it online allows far more people to observe and interact with your thoughts. Since words alone don’t convey context or emotion, what you say can be easily twisted into something else completely unintended.

Slow Down

As with every other aspect of life, it is best to think slowly and speak wisely. Take a little more time, even just a few seconds, to reread and think through what is being said. I’m getting better at this myself, and it is making a big difference.

Unfortunately, this slower approach is not one that is encouraged or even supported by our on-demand world. We are accustomed to getting what we want now, and to delay at all is seen as being behind.

Yet if we desire to have any level of influence and impact, we must be as intentional about our words online as we are offline. We must be incredible wise and thoughtful with what we type, for what we say can be twisted in ways unimaginable. And no “Unsend” feature on Gmail will ever fix that.

It’s going to take plain old-fashioned wisdom.

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