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Random forays: Online faux pas are here to stay

Another grave mistake is to send an email or text message to the very person who has been criticised in it! Being tech-savvy cannot obviate absentmindedness which might put paid to the best of intentions and spoil relations at such times.

punjab Updated: Oct 28, 2018 09:20 IST
Vivek Atray
Vivek Atray
Hindustan Times
Random forays,Online,Online faux pas
We all should start using our mobile phones carefully lest autocorrected words are misinterpreted by some people.(Getty images)

While most of us are now avid users of technology in almost every aspect of our lives, resultant bloopers and faux pas have become an integral part of our online existence. In earlier times when we used to make an oral error and address someone mistakenly by another name, it was not as damaging as it can be now, when everything is on record, so to say.

Thus, whenever we text someone, the ubiquitous Autocorrect feature potentially converts a simple name like ‘Sanjay’ to ‘Salary’. The damage might be even more drastic when ‘Sudha’ is autocorrected to ‘Sexy’! The exact reason why ‘Mr Autocorrect’ has such a vivid imagination is unfathomable for most of us. Perhaps its creators do. Whatever the genesis of this rather uncalled for transformative process that takes place when we are texting, some of us may land up in deep trouble as a result.

Another grave mistake is to send an email or text message to the very person who has been criticised in it! Being tech-savvy cannot obviate absentmindedness which might put paid to the best of intentions and spoil relations at such times. My friends tell me of instances when they virtually ended a perfectly good friendship by inadvertently sending a text or copy of an email unintentionally to an unintended recipient! Pressing the ‘Reply All’ button instead of simply ‘Reply’ also creates mini disasters at times.

Those who are in the habit of forwarding adventurous boys’ jokes had also better watch out, especially when they are sleepy at night time and just might send such dangerous stuff to family or formal groups. On Whatsapp, the ‘Delete Message’ feature has come as a ‘manna’ from heaven to many greenhorns although the damage is often already done, since alert users have already seen what should not have been seen.

My personal experiences have not been any better. At least twice have I tweeted or posted on Facebook utter gibberish like ‘hhh66 yes smash’ since my phone was in the pocket and the screen was on! The last time, it was only after an hour of meditation that I realised what I had done. The best part was that apart from getting a series of question marks from those commenting, I actually got a comment which went like this: ‘Vivek, please count me in!’ Till date I remain befuddled at the intention behind that comment, but I have not thought it prudent to bring it up, ever since.

Governments are not aloof from such blunders either. A state in northern India is known to have sent an official report to the Government of India in which the distance of a project from the sea was mentioned as ‘Zero Kilometres’ simply because most of the document had been copied from the state of Goa!

Online advertisement campaigns by government departments have also been known to contain pictures from another country at times, when the intent is to display photographs of the local population.

One of the things I tell my audiences when I speak to them on written communication skills or email etiquettes is to get into the habit of responding to emails when they are wide awake, and not when they are bleary eyed, early in the morning. The boss may be emailing all and sundry at 5 o’clock in the morning but he would not expect a reply before 9 am. If there is something really urgent, he would surely call or raise a red flag instead of just emailing. But then, bosses can be unreasonable at times!

According to Time magazine, in an article on top internet blunders, the inventor of the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee added the annoying double slashes to ‘http://’ on a whim, and he has regretted it ever since. So have millions of users, actually!

The fact is that in times of increasing technology intervention, being tech savvy is not enough. While transferring money or carrying out other transactions online, one has to be as alert as when one is handing over cash at a counter.

In these times of online living, we have to be on the ball and wide awake whenever we press the button!

The writer can be contacted at vivek.atray@gmail.com

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 09:20 IST