There's no going back

Updated: Mar 11, 2019, 09:59 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi

After WhatsApp, now Facebook Messenger has a feature that allows users to delete their messages. Is it useful? Or does it encourage fresh panic? Experts and famous faces give us the lowdown

There's no going back

That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less." We came across this quote back in 2010, in a novel authored by Arundhati Roy. And it had impacted us deeply enough to have stayed with us all these years on. We think of these words again as we muse about Facebook's latest feature that launched last month. It allows you to delete your message within 10 minutes of sending it.

Last year, WhatsApp enabled a similar feature, with Instagram following suit, and it made us think about the ramifications of such a development. Sure, it's a useful feature in so far as work-related messages are concerned, such as, when you have sent the incorrect address, or one replete with typos to a senior, or even a response to a wrong chat. But social media expert Ankita Gaba reveals an interesting facet.

(From left) Sonali Gupta, Suchanda Brahma and Ankita Gaba
(From left) Sonali Gupta, Suchanda Brahma and Ankita Gaba

"This has been created primarily for personal conversations because most business-related interactions don't happen over Facebook or WhatsApp. Even if they do, the worst that can happen is a typo or in the case of, say, an airlines brand, when they send the wrong ticket ID; then you can delete the message because that's breach of privacy," Gaba explains.

How, then, are netizens using the delete feature? To remove drunk texts, responses sent in a fit of rage and unwarranted or hurtful messages, is our guess. But can the click of a button erase the indelible mark left by unkindness? What if the receiver has seen the message in the pop-up notification on their phone, or worse still, you have missed the time limit which varies from seven to 10 minutes across apps?

Think before you speak
"We are all multitasking in so many ways that mistakes are bound to happen. The only time this becomes an issue is when someone sends out a mean or nasty text and then goes on to delete it. That is where our filters stop working. We react very quickly these days and the delete button is helping us 'un-react'," says Dr Suchandra Brahma - who shuttles between Kolkata and San Diego, California, and conducts online sessions, too - highlighting the need to curb our impulses, an innate issue with the online generation. "People who are hinged on social media are reflecting less, and the reasoning is, 'Okay, I have the delete option, so I can make mistakes.' That is making people less sensitive," she adds.

This message has been deleted
Clinical psychologist Sonali Gupta echoes this when she says, "I don't think the problem is with this feature, but rather, with the way we choose to use it. Our sense of accountability and ownership needs to go hand in hand with our presence on social media." This spills over to the way we conduct ourselves and ultimately, the messages we send. The flipside to the delete feature can be experienced on the receiver's end, where the words "This message has been deleted" create anxiousness.

Many of us are often scrambling to find out what that message was. This, Gupta says, is not healthy. "In such situations, it is best to tell yourself that the message wasn't meant for you. The other option is to confront the sender," she explains, adding, "Human relations are layered, and so, it's best to use your discretion to decide whether a situation warrants a confrontation or not."

Gurmehar Kaur

Say it, then delete it
Activist and writer Gurmehar Kaur shares, "I think the delete feature does create a lot of anxiety, but more than that, it makes you careless. They say, think before you speak. But at this point, it is a case of verbal diarrhoea. And it is so because we know we can delete it. This can put a strain on personal relationships. It can also have political repercussions, like, with fake news. People can share or send propaganda and delete it, so that they are no longer accountable for it."

Bhuvan Bam

It's time to own up
Social media influencer and YouTube star Bhuvan Bam says, "The addition of such features has different impacts on different conversations. People who make typos all the time can unsend messages and rewrite them. But the receiver might have a different reaction to a deleted message. Also, it's quite difficult to understand the 'tone' of a text message. The word 'whatever' might sound rude on text, but it's just an expression otherwise. People must learn to articulate their views. This feature wasn't available back in the day. People made mistakes and accepted it. Saying something and owning up to it is what one's suppose to do."

Kubbra Sait

Let's be accountable
Actor Kubbra Sait asserts, "This is a great feature when it comes to typos. I can be a grammar Nazi, so I have often copy-pasted messages, made corrections, re-sent the text and deleted the original one. As such, I don't look at the option of deleting as a negative one. You cannot blame technology or rely on it for your actions. 'Arre, but I was angry, na. I was frustrated and not in the right frame of mind,' cannot be an excuse. Personally, even when I send an angry message, I read it before hitting the send button. We need to be more aware, empathetic, conscious and responsible for what we type. It is important to be accountable in a conversation instead of blaming others."

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