They really CAN see you- the dangers of Group MMS messaging texts (Updated on 8/25/2014)

Note: I am editing this post as of 8/25/2014, since I now have switched to an android and a family plan with unlimited text/talk.  But I have had a few more situations to share where group messaging turned “On” have resulted in horrible situations where people were talked about and were on the said group text.  I am urging you all to turn OFF your group messaging off.  When in doubt, keep it OFF.

You thought “reply-all” was taboo and against good netiquette, just wait ’til you my read my latest experiences with group text messaging and the dangers that can bring. People love to send text messages… they love it. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s the “thing”, so much so that people have dispensed completely with talking. Here writes a friend of mine, “well, just text me okay- don’t call… we can discuss it over text.” My reply – “I can’t do that dear, I have limited texts per month. I will E-mail you”

sample group message (only 4 recipients) courtesy of (CLICK PIC FOR LINK)

Well, now add to text messaging a new layer of complication – the reply-all of the text message world, known as GROUP MESSAGING. This past Easter, I learned a lot – a whole heck of a lot. I got my FIRST, yup, my first GROUP MMS Text wishing me a “Happy Easter. “ Of course, I do not mind the gesture even though I do not celebrate Easter. It was nice. But then a few minutes I got another message from a phone number I did not recognize, and then another, and then… yes, it prompted me to take a look at what just happened. Wait?! What is going on? Why am I getting texts from all these numbers I do not recognize? Well, folks, welcome to a whole new layer of breach of privacy- the Group Message feature to send texts. What prompted me to write this post was not the text message itself because if I had consented to be part of a group, I would not mind a group text because I consented to it. But this one had a lot of numbers on it and mine was right there among it and when I tried to reply to just my friend, I could not- it replied all. I asked folks to please not do a reply-all if possible because I did not have unlimited text’ing at that time. In return, one person replied with a simple “FU.” Yeah, you read that right. It didn’t get better from there. When I tried to write her again to tell her what number did that and to remove me from her list, this same person wrote me back again “F— You (yes this time he spelled it out) you cheap A$!h0le”. Lovely, now I have two texts I was charged for that basically insult me, are obscene, and are at the tip of my fingertips everywhere I go. Thanks. It’s truly a Happy Easter. As I contemplated a little further, I wondered if the sender of those texts to me, on the holiest of Christian days, went to Church earlier that day and screamed “He Is Risen!” But in any case, instead of writing back or getting even, I decided to do a post warning people about the dangers (there are a lot) of Group MMS Messaging.

Warning #1 to the SENDER of GROUP MESSAGES – My first warning and the lesson I learned from this incident applies to the sender of this group message. Unless your friends have consented to having their cell phone numbers released to a bunch of other people they don’t know, it is total lack of situational awareness (SA) and respect to do so. You should not send group messages because everyone can see everyone’s number if they have their group settings turned “on” and that is just plain rude. SENDER, go check your phone’s settings. I get into detail in Warning #4 below if you have an Iphone how to check your settings. But, please be mindful of group messages. It can be considered poor taste and bad etiquette to do this unless all parties know each other and are okay with group messages being sent out. In sum, STOP SENDING GROUP MESSAGES!  My favorite recent article is posted here:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/03/20/modern-mobile-etiquette-group-text-message/   

Seriously, if you hate me, keeping sending me those group messages.  Merry Christmas to you too- Sheesh!  It’s not really about the texting as much as the lack of respect you show for me when I am getting replies from your friends, most of whom are not friends of mine.

Warning #2 to the RECIPIENT OF GROUP MESSAGES- This one is for the recipient, please check your “To” line when you reply. If it states the sender’s name PLUS 19 other recipients, it goes to all 20 recipients (yes, even the one who said “FU”). For example, even though I was trying to message her directly, my messages were reverting back to the GROUP MESSAGE she sent so everyone could see my messages. Yeah, even THAT GUY! Check your settings on your Iphone or other device and turn GROUP MESSAGING OFF. This will prevent you replying to all. I have a friend today who brought up another point on this. What if your friend wrote 5 people in group messaging and one of those recipients is someone you dislike and you do a reply-all without looking at the TO line or figuring out that it is a group message? What if your reply is, “As long as Stacy does not attend, I am there.” What if Stacy receives this REPLY-ALL TEXT? Yeah, well, other than being awkward, there is no taking this back. Also keep in mind that someone may want to send a private message that only the sender would need to see like a very private matter or a health issue and now the entire list sees it. So, recipients, the responsibility is on you as well. A little SA goes a long way in ensuring your privacy as well.
Recent situation I heard about:  A mom’s group sent out a group text about a gathering and a recipient who did not have group messaging turned to the “OFF” position wrote the entire group a nasty comment about someone on the group.  Ouch! That person was in the group and saw the text.  Not cool!  Turn it off.  

courtesy of (click to see link)

Warning #3 CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS TO OFF- Finally, check your phone’s messaging settings. I know this prompted me to do so. For example, if you are an Iphone user and have IOS 5.0 or higher your settings are automatically set to send and receive group messages so go into your settings, go under messages, and change GROUP MESSAGING TO OFF. That should solve the problem of when you reply to FRIEND X who wrote everyone on her phone from sending to all those friends instead of just FRIEND X. But unless the sender and ALL the recipients on the other end have their GROUP MESSAGING turned off, sadly, you will get messages when they do their “reply all”. What a pain! So it really is everyone’s responsibility to maybe turn their group messaging feature OFF so they do not reply all and repeat the mistakes of WARNING #2 & #3.

All in all, it was a troubling situation and I was concerned. For years now, I have been troubled when someone sends family pictures or newsletters and my E-mail address is in the “TO” LINE along with 50 others. I think, wow, this is not a group I consented to and frankly my email address should be in the “Bcc” line but I just assume delete the email and delete the billion REPLY-ALLs that occur and move on. But, now my cell phone number is being shared with random people I do not know and I am supposed to be okay with that? I am supposed to sit back and let someone I do not know send me obscene text messages and be okay with it? I am not okay with it. I wrote this article because of the personal experience I had and I feel very strongly that people should exercise good, sound judgment and netiquette not just on the internet, or E-mail but also with text messaging. Because once you hit “send”, they can see you ….they can ALL see it, and you just never know when it can destroy a relationship, a good friendship or you could lose a job over it so please, please heed these warnings and readers, please add your own netiquette and warnings below. I would love to hear from you


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