December 18, 2008, 5:06 PM — Call it the "oh-no second." You know -- the interval between clicking the Send button on a private e-mail and realizing you just cc'd the entire universe.
But it's not just e-mail. Thanks to the ease, speed, and reach of technology, we now have the potential to be bigger doofuses in front of more people than at any other time in history.
For example, nothing says "I am a professional" more than intimate messages from loved ones popping up on screen during a presentation to the board. Then there are the pricey pocket-size gadgets that always seem to wind up in the swimming pool, the washing machine, or worse. Don't forget about social networks that allow you to get up close and personal with the mucous membranes of complete strangers. And if you're wearing a wireless microphone while you read this, turn it off now. You'll thank us later.
Here's a comforting thought: Whatever mortifying things you've done, somebody else has probably done worse. In fact, following are ten examples of real people who have been shamed by technology, along with some ways you can avoid a similar fate -- lest you end up in articles like this one.
Tech Embarrassment 1: Bad Husband, No Nookie
Making snide sexual comments about someone in an e-mail and then accidentally sending it to them is embarrassing. Making snide sexual comments about your wife's colleagues -- and accidentally copying her boss on the message -- is a recipe for unemployment...if not celibacy.
Mike, a book author in New York, learned that the hard way.
"I was writing about a Christmas party thrown by my wife's employer," he says. "She's a professor of nursing, and they had an annual 'Nurses Ball' for faculty and student nurses. I sent one of my frequent 'what we're doing now' e-mails to several friends, and I accidentally included the dean of the nursing school where my wife taught. I jokingly referred to the party as the annual 'balling of the nurses.'"
In his defense, Mike says he was taking medication at the time. As for the dean: "I don't believe she was at all happy with me," he writes, "which may be why my wife no longer teaches there.'"
How to avoid having this happen to you: Before you send your pharmaceutically enhanced e-mail, try on a pair of Google Mail Goggles, which make you solve simple math problems before sending late-night Gmail missives.