The Instantly Regretted E-Mail

by Glenn McDonald

4 March 2007

You know that sick feeling you get when fire off a toxic reply, hit the “send” button, and find yourself peering into the Dark Side of instant global electronic communication?

emoticobligation: The urge, when writing an ironic or sarcastic email, to include an smiley-face “emoticon”—even if you absolutely [expletive] hate those [expletive] little things
Oxford English Dictionary, deleted excerpt, 2004 edition

There was an interesting report in The New York Times a few days back, about online etiquette and flaming, and that particular sensation of having sent an email that you immediately regret. You know the feeling. You fire off a toxic reply –- sarcastic or otherwise -– hit the “send” button, and find yourself peering into the Dark Side of instant global electronic communication.

Apparently there’s a scientific name for flaming now –- the “online disinhibition effect”—which psychologists use to describe the way in which people behave with less restraint in cyberspace. A study published in the journal CyberPsychology & Behavior suggested that several psychological factors lead to online disinhibition: “the anonymity of a Web pseudonym; invisibility to others; the time lag between sending an e-mail message and getting feedback; the exaggerated sense of self from being alone; and the lack of any online authority figure.”

Fascinating, to be sure, but we here at PopMatters are all about the facts. In an effort to track down some real-world examples of Instantly Regretted E-mails (IREs), we dispatched the office interns to scour the Internet for evidence. Amazing what the kids today can ferret out by hacking into server archives. They also fixed my little IRS problem, got the whole staff a lifetime subscription to Sports Illustrated, and somehow brought the United States to DEFCON 2 for about a half-hour. Good work, young people.

Here are some of the more compelling IREs they dug up:


Subject: Oscars

Whassup, bitches? As you’ve no doubt read in every single entertainment magazine and trade paper in town, Dreamgirls is THE frontrunner for Best Picture. The critics are going wild! And our timing couldn’t be better—we’re going to ride this sweet momentum all the way to the Oscar! Good luck with your cute little indie film there, suckers!

In your face!!!

—Laurence Mark
Laurence Mark Productions


To: [listserv: BOOKCRITICS]
Subject: re: “Queen of the lowest common denominator”

To all you haters out there—looks like my OJ Simpson book is not only going to top the bestseller list, I’m going to get a TV deal out of it, too! Awwwwww, yeah! Get used to it, losers! Judith Regan is here to stay!

love, Judy


Subject: re: Proposal for New Show

Cowell, you’re really getting on my nerves. Just drop it, OK? Nobody wants to watch a bunch of no-talent assclowns sing and dance on national TV. And, frankly, your personality is simply not suited for American television. We don’t believe that viewers will be interested in an endless parade of deluded idiots being insulted by C-list celebrity jerks. I mean, c’mon man—Paula Abdul? Maybe try pitching this to those tossers over at Fox.  It’s one long Amateur Hour over there anyway…

—Jeff Milchner
Acquisitions Producer


Subject: re: no, you’re a jerk!!!

Yeah sure, Steve, you’re going to MAGICALLY transform Apple from a seventh-tier computer maker to a ubiquitous digital media empire. Oh, yes, a FAIRYTALE FUTURE where the kids get all their music and TV and movies from a CANDYCANE GUMDROP device that fits in their pocket. Hey, where’s your head? Have you seen your head, lately? Oh, that’s right -– it’s up your ass! Bite me, hippie!



Subject: Confirming your appearance

Hello, Mr. Richards,

This e-mail is to confirm your appearance at The Laugh Factory on the evening of Friday, November 17, 2006. We look forward to your performance!

—Betsy Halloran
Booking and Accounts Payable
The Laugh Factory


Subject: re: Don’t Mess With Texas

Please, Mr. President, we both know Congress is not going to roll over like a lapdog with the “intelligence” you have. Where are the WMDs? Do you know? Because I surely do not. And I am the madman that is supposed to have them! You Americans are stupid, but surely you are not that stupid. What are you going to do, invade me? Good luck with that, arrogant swine! And if you do, I have a nice civil war just under the rug here—you can have it for cheap!



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