DON’T “Reply to All”


Comedian Nathan Fielder engineered a prank on Twitter recently. You may have heard of it already. He asked his followers to send this text message to a parent: “Got 40 grams for $40.00.”  Then, they were to send this message to the parent right afterwards: “Sorry. Text not for you. LOL.” Fielder asked his followers to submit screen-prints of the parents’ responses. Some of the responses were hysterical, in all-caps. Some were surprisingly laid back. All were pretty funny. Here’s a site where you can read some responses: htttp://


These texts were intentional, of course, but haven’t we all at some point accidentally sent the wrong digital message?  On our iphones, say you’ve saved texts from several people and you want to respond to one of them, doesn’t your thumb sometimes hit the wrong one when you’re momentarily looking up to see if traffic stopped?  Haven’t we all replied “to all,” or haven’t we all had to read the office comedians reply to all over and over?  In the spirit of this blog, I was inspired by this prank to review some of my old text and e-mails. Here’s an i.m. I sent to a coworker a few years back, a lawyer in the office next to mine named Ellen.

“It’s funny, your name is right next to my wife’s in my contacts list.  So my last text wasn’t in fact intended for you, rest assured. Sorry about that. I don’t ever refer to you as “my little pumpkinhead.”  That’s my wife. Also, I never imagined you on a beach, wearing noth–well, I haven’t imagined you anywhere but working at your desk. No,in fact, I haven’t imagined you at all. Ever. LOL. I enjoy working with you, and hope to be able to continue to do so in the immediate future.”

That message created some problems for me, but it all worked out. I’d planned to give my notice pretty soon anyway. Another time, a friend sent a “save-the-date” for his wedding by e-mail to a large distribution list, including me, but unbeknownst to me, it also including his current boss.  After I replied-to-all, the text of which I’ll spare you, I found myself having to send this e-mail a few days later to his boss:

Reply-to-All 2

Mr. Stewart, I apologize for what seemed to be an inappropriate and unprofessional response to Dave’s e-mail. I did not mean to “reply to all.”  To address my e-mail specifically, I never knew him to take the drugs I joked about. I know him to be a hard worker, very conscientious.  He never once held up a liquor store for drug money. Not with me, anyway. The prostitute joke was out of line too. It was funny, though, right? Anyway, please reconsider your decision about his employment. Thank you.

Another one, more recent.  Last week was administrative assistant’s day, when you have to get your secretaries a gift. Well, in short, I found myself sending the following to an assistant at my new job:

“Roxanne, as I said at your desk, I don’t know who sent you that message from my computer during lunch. He/she thought it would be funny to pretend to complain about giving you a gift and “accidentally” send the complaint to you. It was not funny, I agree. I have been impressed by your work ethic, and never have I thought you spend your day sitting on your…you know, what that person wrote.  I am glad you spend the amount of time you do keeping me and others abreast of the goings-on in the office, keeping the “lines of communication” open, as it were. Have a good day, and enjoy the scented candle.”

I guess its a good idea to be careful who you send your digital messages to. This stuff lives forever. And if any of you know someone who’s hiring, please let me know.

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About Robert Phillips

Robert Phillips is a Miami lawyer still deciding what he wants to do for a living. Once a lover of Pynchon, Pinter, and any other artist whose work he barely understood, he has since "come home" to genre fiction and fandom, where he truly belongs. He focuses most of his fan-attention on his wife Elena and his three little girls, who will one day be a female president, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and a supermodel/astrophysicist. (He's not sure which one will be which yet.)

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