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

  1. Yes I hate group messaging. A while back I received a text from a friend announcing his engagement. I congratulated him and thanked him for actually telling me, unlike my other “friends” whom I had to learn got married on Facebook. Little did I know that was a group text which included some of those “friends”. It can also be very confusing receiving texts from unknown numbers. I’m getting replies at Christmas from a mass text sent out at Thanksgiving! Apparently there is no time limit if the recipient replies to the original thread.

    1. I committed the cardinal sin myself today but only with 4 friends and the convo got out of hand with everyone replying to all- sheesh! I just sent a funny pic. But just imagine how much worse it is when people to write to all on their phone list. So annoying. I wish people could catch a clue on “netiquette”. I really don’t want a mass wish from you. If you want to wish me a Happy New year, send me a card or E-mail me.

  2. I was wondering if you know what a group message looks like on an Android on a Sprint plan actually looks like? My husband was informed he is on a group messaging from this woman and her friends but it only shows her phone number. I told him I do not believe that it is a group message. That it is just her pretending to be other people but he continues to believe it is a group text. I need information to prove to him it is just her. These text messages are harassing him and we need them to stop. At the moment, the only way to stop them seems to be that we would have to issue a restraining order first and then if they continue we can have her arrested. We however live in CA and she is in KS. We do not have the funds to travel there right now. And even if we did, and it is a group message, we can’t tell who else is on the line because no other phone number shows up but the original sender. Please HELP!

    1. I have Android/Sprint.

      If I send a group message to 2 people, for example, CAT and DOG. My cell shows both numbers as a single thread ( “CAT and 1 more”). However, I believe they each receive my text individually because when they respond, I receive it on their own thread. In other words, when CAT responds, it comes through on the CAT thread, not the initial group (“CAT and 1 more”) thread I sent it on. Likewise, If DOG responds, it is on DOG thread.

      My advice:
      1) block her number (go into settings on your phone)
      2) make a police report for harassment
      3) relax, you’ve stopped the problem 🙂

    2. I don’t know because I do not have an android but wow… you should read what “Hope this helps” wrote. May help. Agreed – you do need to involve the police if it becomes criminal behavior. Insane!

  3. i am part of a group messaging system on whatapp, as part of a networking group i belong to. What i find annoying is that, people who are part of this group, think its absolutely ok to send a message post 9pm, and wait, if thats not bad enough, there are some 5 others who think its ok to reply back to this message, when they see it, which could be at 1130pm or 7am!!!!! One decides to say ‘good morning’ and then the mobile rings some 8 times, as others reply back with a ‘good morning’
    There have been times, when someone would forward a message at 5.30 in the evening, completely forgetting that the end of the message it says ‘good morning’.
    Then comes the clincher, hardly ever is business discussed amongst the members of the ‘business’ group. It appears to be a forum to exchange jokes, especially about women!!!
    Howzzat for Group Chat?

  4. I have an Android phone and as far as I can see there is no support for group texts and no settings to control them. I can still receive someone’s group text, and everyone else’s replies, but I have no way to tell if a text I have received was sent to more than just me. And when I reply, it’s inconsistent – Either my reply is also sent to everyone (without my knowing) or it’s sent only to the sender. I learned about group texts the hard way as you can imagine – sending a very personal response to someone and not believing him when he told me I just embarrassingly made the remark to an audience of strangers.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing what you did. I just ran into this same thing and in the course of a couple of minutes, several text messages came through. I’m not on unlimited and can’t afford overages so I manage it carefully. Now I found the place in settings (messages) where I turned group messaging off. It irritates me that phone companies will charge you for ever message, but it seems like they do nothing to help you manage what is coming in. I use text messages sparingly because sometimes they are helpful, but I manage my phone so I don’t get overages. I’m thankful this wasn’t a group of 100 people today because, ouch that would have cost me a lot of money. It is sad that people replied to you in the way they did.
    Don Shetterly recently posted..Ten Ways To Get Along With PeopleMy Profile

  6. Last night I was sitting with a friend and sent a message out to about 10 friends, including her. About 2 min later my friend started getting replies to her phone and wondering who they were from. When I looked at her phone, I saw numbers that I had texted that she was getting the responses to on her phone. I knew the dangers of group messaging previously, but I guess the last update turned it on automatically. Weird thing is I saw NO replies to my phone just hers. Went into my settings turned off iMessage and Group yet again. This is VERY concerning to me and thought I would share what happened here.

      1. It is just strange… she is on AT&T, I am on Verizon and I value my friends privacy. It had to be the iMessage feature.

  7. We don’t have a texting plan, so we are charged per text. I don’t know how it is with other providers, but with Verizon at least, we don’t get charged for a text unless we open it. If you start receiving a bunch of reply-all text, just delete them without opening them and you won’t get charged.

    1. AT&T unfortunately charges… so, I am stuck. Ironically, a friend I told about my last nightmare, the reason I wrote the post sent a HAPPY NEW YEAR text to a bunch of people including me (UGH) and then I got 5-6 replies. I hate people sometimes. Ha. Thanks so much though- I checked with AT&T the last time. That is great of Verizon.

  8. I am not cool enough to be involved in group texts, but for this I am thankful. I cannot stand texting in general, I only bother with it now because my phone has talk-to-text, so I don’t have to sit and type out a message. My main issue with the whole thing is that we could have an actual conversation in 2 minutes, but instead text about it for an hour. Lame!
    Sarah recently posted..Heartbreak HouseMy Profile

    1. It’s so sad to think that my kids will probably treat a phone call like our generation is treating the mails ;( no cards for me ;( no one really sends cards and packages anymore unless you Are Deployed to Afghanistan. What’s happened to us? Haaa ah well – til we meet again… On the net haa

    1. Thanks, Chris- I would have thought little of it had I not been cussed out on my own phone by some stranger who thought that maybe I should just be okay with this. But yeah, it opened my eyes and when confirmed with others in my workplace who have had stranger dealings, I decided I have to say something. Not too many people know about this and it is creepy and downright (IMHO) a violation of privacy and trust. THANKS FOR THE SHOUT OUT 🙂 (wait, all caps mean I am yelling right?) haaaa Netiquette.. it never ends.

  9. Thanks for the warning! I do not have unlimited text and sometimes use the imessage service to connect with others. I have not been part of too many group messages just some from family but I am now forewarned and forearmed!! I am going to follow step 4 (yup I read the whole article) and check my settings…
    Thanks again getcluedin !!

    1. Sources tell me the only phone which permits this is iPhone WITH AT&T service Ugh sucks thanks Connie. I have never experienced this and it shocked me this even existed

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