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Return to sender: Pressing wrong button for Dutton a mistake anyone could make

Opinion

Queensland’s Health Minister might be a little red-faced, but she’s hardly the first, and won’t be the last, to fall foul of the dreaded wrong text, writes Madonna King

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It’s not just our children who have to be careful communicating online and by text. Just ask Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath.

A slip of the fingers in copying a number. An overzealous ‘autocorrect’. An accidental ‘reply all’. The use of an intemperate word. We warn our children, constantly, but few of us are exempt from the dreaded ‘message meant for someone else’.

It’s just the level of embarrassment that differs.

Sometimes it goes unnoticed. You don’t realise the text or email meant for A went to B, until you question A about their failure to respond.

Like the friend who sent a saucy email full of lingerie and lust to her new boyfriend about how they might share a Saturday night. Later, when he didn’t respond, she questioned him.

“I didn’t get any text,’’ he said. She checked. And found out the recipient was her father. “He’s never mentioned it, and neither have I.’’

On that embarr-ometer, Yvette D’Ath’s stuff-up scarcely rates.

Reaction is important, though. The health minister’s text slip would have never been discovered had she not tried to make a political play of it, accusing the Commonwealth Government of cheap politics.

She’d tried to call Peter Dutton about our Diggers, stranded overseas, she said, but he did not pick up. She’d tried to text him, too, but he had the audacity, we thought, not to respond.

And she dug her heels in; posing for photographs proving the truth of her accusations, once the Defence Minister vehemently denied hearing from her.

That’s when the own-goal became apparent. They were both telling the truth, sort of. Yvette D’Ath had texted someone; it just wasn’t Peter Dutton. And he’d be correct in claiming he’d never received any text.

Yvette D’Ath will check the number next time; a good practice we should all adopt.

A well-known Brisbane company director learnt that a while ago, when he called someone to relay a whole story about a firm in trouble. He had all the juice on it. “Why are you telling me this?’’ the journalist responded. The company boss thought he was talking to his friend, a stockbroker.

Another senior journalist received an email from a staff member, who reported to her. “She wouldn’t know how to pick her nose, let alone a story,’’ it read. The reporter’s face was just as red, when she looked up to see her boss reading the text, wearing a smirk.

That mistake is a common one. “I sent an email gloating to a colleague about how I had put a pompous little person in his place just after a meeting but accidentally sent it to the pompous little person instead of my colleague,’’ one friend says. And how did she discover that? “I got a reply ‘Did you mean to send this to me?’.’’

We make a habit, in our house, of checking email addresses after a Channel 7 boss received my grocery list, and a mother and friend at school was sent both my mortgage repayment details and a book proposal and host of other documents she promises not to have read.

But it was my husband who took the prize, after going out to a Woodford music gig telling me he’d send an email if he was tired, and staying with the rest of the band, for the night. Otherwise, he’d drive home.

At 2am, I woke and realised he hadn’t arrived home, checked my email, which was blank. Panic rose quickly and subsided slowly after checking there had been no traffic accidents. Anger then took over.

Eventually through blackspot and text exchanges, he realised he’d sent “Won’t be home tonight; sleeping with the boys’’ to a prominent Brisbane businessman, who I still can’t look in the eye.

“That’s nothing,’’ another friend says, before explaining that after misunderstanding one text, they sent a congratulatory text to an expectant mum. The problem was – she wasn’t pregnant.

“I sent a rather cheeky sexy text to my husband,’’ another friend says, and got the reply ‘Who is this?’ In that case, her husband was just winding her up.”

A request for similar examples of how technology mishaps can change our day’s trajectory yesterday prompted tales of wayward school instructions, saucy tuck shop rosters, mixed-up home repairs and even house sales gone wrong.

Autocorrect should come with a special warning light, because some have found that dimples become nipples, hugs become HIV, buttons become buttholes and friends risk becoming enemies when our high-tech living takes control of our speech.

Of course, these mishaps can happen the old-fashioned way too as one woman found out when she told someone – not the tradesperson she expected – that her husband was out, and the visitor should come around the back, where she’d left the door open for him!

But of course, they are more common when we can communicate to all, everywhere, within seconds.

“Reply all’’ is the big problem, another friend told me. “You can be talking about someone, and then inadvertently put their name in the address field, and then they’re reading what you’re saying about them!’’

‘If you’re not kind online, then you’re not kind offline’ is a mantra schools and parents of teenagers use the nation over.

But perhaps Yvette D’Ath’s public mistake should be a reminder that we take our own advice: check, check, check, and then count to 10, before you press ‘send’.

 

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