That Thing Where You Texted The Wrong Person

How many times has this happened to you? You are replying to a text message, and click the Send button, only to discover that you have texted the wrong person. Sometimes the reverse happens. You receive a text message from someone that makes no sense at all. It is usually followed, seconds later, by an apologetic message. Whoops, sent to the wrong person by mistake.

We used dial wrong numbers. It was fairly easy to misdial. The buttons on the phone weren’t very large and a 5 could accidentally become a 6. A strange voice would come on the line. You’d ask for the person you were trying to reach and often get a mildly annoyed reply that there was no such person and you must have a wrong number.

The nice thing about wrong numbers is that they were mostly anonymous. You didn’t know who you dialed and they didn’t know you. That generally isn’t the case with text messages. Messaging applications like Apple Messages have this tendency to sort conversations by recency. So if I am texting Kelly, and then I get a text from my sister, the conversation with my sister jumps to the top of the list. When I go to reply to Kelly, I am actually replying to my sister.

One could produce a sitcom based on non sequitur text conversations. A recent one that took place with my old man will serve as an example:

Me: Did you know that Al Martinez died back in 2015? I just found that out today.
Dad: Was he the columnist at the LA Times? No I didn't.
Me: Yes. I'm working on a post about him and I learned that he died in January 2015.
Dad: Good!

It is hard to imagine my dad was saying it was good that Al Martinez died in 2015. It is possible that he was saying it was good that I am writing a post about him. But given my experience with text messaging, it is most likely that the “Good!” my dad replied with was meant for someone else.

You’d think someone would have come up with a simple way of avoiding this, but so far, I haven’t seen one. One has to simply pay extra attention when one is texting to ensure one’s messages are directed to the correct party. This got me thinking about behavior. I wonder how many misdirected texts are composed and sent while driving. Studies show that texting distracts from driving, but the reverse must also be true. It seems to me that a good percentage of wrong-number text messages result from some kind of distraction.

We are good at creating words for strange phenomenon that results from technology misuse, so I wondered if such a word described what I otherwise call “texting a wrong number.” It turnes out, there is. The Urban Dictionary calls this phenomenon textident: Accidentally texting the wrong person; usually caused by texting more than one person at the same time.

Does this happen to you or am I the only one? Text me and let me know. Just not all at once, okay?

One comment

  1. I’ve definitely done this too and almost certainly because the most recent conversation rose to the top of the conversation list. The risk of this recurring is probably the main reason I avoid any potentially embarrassing comments intended for my wife.


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