Google Gmail recently finalized its “Undo Send” feature, which enables you to recall an outgoing email up to ten seconds after you hit “Send” on it. The feature works by delaying the sending of the email for ten seconds, so that if you hit “Undo Send,” the email will not be sent in the first place.
Google’s inclusion of the feature seems to reflect a recognition that the speed with which technology makes it possible to send email can make us more inclined to send messages mindlessly, and that we need to be protected against ourselves as a result.
This brings to mind what I’ll call “Treebeard’s Law,” reflected in the following pronouncement by Treebeard the Ent in The Lord of the Rings (at least the movie version): “You must understand, young Hobbit, it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”
You might say that there is an Internet Corollary to Treebeard’s Law: “It takes virtually no time to say anything on the Internet. Therefore we will say virtually anything on the Internet, even if it is not worth taking any time to say.”
While I can admire the motivation behind Gmail’s new “Undo Send,” perhaps we could all strive to make “Undo Send” unnecessary by mindfully observing the “Send” button and only clicking it after we have drawn the considered conclusion that the message we are about to send is worth saying–and that we are ready to stand behind that message without regret.