Sometimes I’m so savvy with technology I amaze myself. Whether it’s CC’ing priests on three different continents to network them over an e-mail, getting 32 kids to turn in a waiver over Facebook or viewing a prospective date’s house on google earth, technology affords a lot of amazing and downright creepy conveniences. However, sometimes I’m a klutz. I’m pretty sure I not only accidentally denied Bob McCarty's friend request on Facebook, but I also reported him as Spam. Every attempt I make to incorporate YouTube videos into a lesson ends up with the video either not loading or showing some raunchy ad that was not there when I previewed it. And, a few weeks ago, I committed the biggest faux pas ever. The dreaded “reply all”.
I blame the iPhone. It was an exciting day when Verizon lived up to everything we ever hoped and knew they could be and announced that starting in February they’d be carrying the iPhone. There was much rejoicing and dancing in the streets from loyal Verizon-ites like myself. Will we get one? Who knows. But now we have a choice. But I digress. My fellow Verizon customers noticed a tinge of bitterness from media outlets and friends who appear to be ruing/ defending their connection with AT&T and frankly, it was making me cranky. So, in a fit of cranky-texting, I shot out a final text which I intended my friend to receive, saying, “still cranky. Dam- iPhone users really are a cult. At least with religion, people are happy when you join…” a few minutes later I got, literally, a dozen text messages from teens in my contact list saying, “who is this?... Miss Alison?”
I had texted my high school contact list instead.
I am rarely embarrassed—taking yourself too seriously is fatal in youth ministry—but I was mortified—and still cringe reading it. Accidentally texting the wrong message happens… but a bitter wrong message with a bad word in the mix? Epic. Fail.
I quickly texted the kids my mistake… And sent an e-mail to their parents to apologize but as we know, words… words cannot be erased… An excellent confessor often gave me James 3 as penance, which begins , “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also…” (James 3:1-2).
The moral of the story? You’re always just one button away from causing scandal… from a millstone (Matthew 18:6). The parents in our parish have been incredibly understanding, saying, “but you didn’t mean to send it to them” but the point is that classic lesson that if you don’t have something nice to say, you just shouldn’t say it because once it’s been said (or texted) you don’t know who will repeat it or read it.
Words are powerful. Use with caution.