Google Labs is testing an "undo" button on Gmail that gives you 30 seconds to stop an email from reaching its recipient. If they extended it to a 30-minutes hold, I might switch over to Gmail. Thirty seconds is simply not long enough for me to calm down, take a breath, think about how I really feel, and then go "Oh shit!" as it dawns on me how intemperate my reaction was. Unfortunately, no amount of time will compensate for some of the truly stupid, hurtful stuff I say and write, but it would be great to be able to recall emails (or snail mail) sent in an unguarded moment.
While one might argue that email, tweets and texting have somehow increased our productivity, giving us the ability to reach out to scores with the same message, there has been a noticeable degradation in the formation and maintenance of business contacts, since there is little time for simply being "social" and learning a little more about each other beyond "When will I get the RFP back?" The let's-get-together-over-lunch-and-discuss generation is shuffling off this mortal coil at an increasingly rapid rate.
We are seeing an entire generation growing up reliant almost totally on written snippets to communicate. There is no nuance, no subtlety in 140-character or text messages; everything is black and white and taken at face value. The margin for error has all but disappeared, and mock indifference is not truly a salve for hurt feelings.
While the march of technology has brought us video chat on the desktop (and before long on mobile devices), I suspect it will never be as pervasive as text messaging and Facebook wall postings -- if for no other reason than it takes longer to set up, and there will be a certain reluctance to be on-camera unless we are looking our best.
While the kids will argue that constant texting and tweeting keeps them in touch with more friends more often than actually seeing them in the flesh, they refuse to believe that snippets filled with SMS code (LOL!) and emoticons :0) are not quality contacts -- especially since all of their friends are perfectly fine with all this. I have actually seen two kids sitting within 10 feet of each other texting back and forth rather than talking. It is up to the sociologists to decide if this will result in some sort of atrophied ability to socialize and converse in the manner in which we were instructed mercilessly by OUR parents. Already I hear SMS code terms being use in verbal conversations between young teens. Who knows, maybe they will all end up adept conversationalists -- but stop every sentence or phrase at 140 characters.
Meanwhile, perhaps we should add the following lines to our email and text signature: "If my message (if you could even read it) in any way offends you, please accept my deepest apology. I no longer have the time or inclination to stop and think before I react. Lunch next Tuesday?"