Drunk texts & sober regrets

Everyone has done something embarrassing when inebriated. Postscript features some devices on the market that will help save us from ourselves

Impulsive, and sometimes inappropriate, communication when drunk may be due to alcohol’s effect on our ability to make decisions and reason about the consequences of our actions.
Impulsive, and sometimes inappropriate, communication when drunk may be due to alcohol’s effect on our ability to make decisions and reason about the consequences of our actions.

Ever wake up after a night of too many drinks and have to sign onto your Facebook or check your phone for clues of last night’s misadventures?

Admit it, you’ve done it too. During a night of intense inebriation, the urge to reach for your phone and tell your friend, boss or ex-lover what you really think of them can be overwhelming.

But when you wake in the morning, you may discover the results are as embarrassing as they are comical.

Alexis Wilkes, ArtSci ’13, is no stranger to drunk dialing. She said her most destructive instance was a couple years ago.

“It was my friend’s 18th birthday, the summer before I came to Queen’s, and I had been drinking a lot,” she said. “I decided it would be a good idea to call [my best friend’s] girlfriend, to tell her I liked him.

“She hated me after that. I really wish I hadn’t done [it].”

In fact, dialing and texting under the influence has become so widespread that it’s entered the realm of popular culture. Websites like “Texts From Last Night” catalogue and immortalize the funniest moments in texting. The lion’s share of these incidents presumably involve alcohol.

But if you’re tired of ending up like the people you read about on humour websites, a solution is on the horizon. A variety of new technologies have been developed to put the kibosh on drunk dialing and texting alike.

A litany of apps for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones have appeared on the market in the last few months, promising to protect you from yourself.

The website for “Don’t Dial!,” an app for iPhone and Android phones, tells a familiar parable:

“When you left for the bar, you had no intention of emailing your boss, texting your ex or calling your crush,” the website says. “Then someone ordered tequila shots.”

“I would have loved that,” Wilkes said. “Every night I was drinking, I would absolutely use that app. I’m a drunk dialler.”

The app allows you to block certain people on your phone’s contact list; it also allows you to set a timer for this block for a predetermined amount of time. There’s even a password that you can give a friend to prevent yourself from contacting anyone.

Available from the iTunes store for a reasonable $0.99, “Don’t Dial!” is a decent option for the sloppy drunk on a budget.

Alternatively, there’s TigerText, the service that allows you to “send texts that don’t live forever,” it advertises.

The service, which is available for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones, can be downloaded for free. It allows users to send self-destructing texts that last a set amount of time (but only if both the sender and receiver have the app).

Then there’s the Bad Decisions Blocker (BDB) app—also available for $0.99 for iPhone—which completely blocks you from accessing a selected contact (or list of contacts) for a set period of time. It blocks outgoing phone calls, texts and e-mails.

If software won’t do the trick, there’s the LP4100 phone from LG, which features a built-in breathalyser. Originally developed in Korea, it’s been showcased in the US (but not yet in Canada) and is designed to help users make informed decisions on whether or not to drive home. It can also be programmed to block out access to specific numbers if the owner blows over 0.08 blood alcohol level.

And it’s not just phone-related belligerence that can cause havoc in your personal and professional lives. Google just rolled out the “Mail Goggles” feature on its Gmail service.

The feature is programmed to become active during certain high-risk times of the week—Friday and Saturday nights, for instance—and challenges its user with timed, skill-testing math questions.

If you’re prone to fits of vitriol (or unwelcome affection) toward a former special-someone, there’s http://blockyourex.com, which will stop you from creeping his Facebook or stalking her Twitter.

The website allows you to enter up to five names. The software will then delete any mention of their name or image from the internet—without the blocked person knowing, of course.

“I know some people Facebook stalk their ex,” Wilkes said. “[The service] would help in the transition between breakup and moving on.”

Even so, Wilkes said the personal touch can be more effective in hindering drunk dialing than technology alone.

“I wish someone would just take my phone from me when I’m drunk,” she said. “If I need to call somebody for a ride, or I need to call a cab, they could use their discretion and supervise the call, but I should not be left alone with my phone when I’m drunk.”

She said she’d reciprocate the favour.

“I usually confiscate my friends’ phone when they’ve been drinking too much,” she said. “I watch out for them.”

Wilkes said the most useful technology for a drunk person might have nothing to do with blocking communication at all.

“The problem I have is that I always leave my phone somewhere when I’m drunk. If I had something like a beeper, or a GPS, that would be handy,” she said.

“So [it would be helpful] if I had a bracelet ... or something that I keep on me, to help me locate my phone.”

Lee Fisher-Goodchild, coordinator of health education and health promotion programs at Queen’s, said drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can impair one’s decision making ability, which helps us to decide whether or not to text or call a boss or an ex and say something we probably shouldn’t.

“Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it actually depresses the function of brain cells,” she said, adding that the frontal lobe area of the brain is responsible for decision-making, distinguishing between right and wrong and the ability to monitor ourselves.

“Even a small amount of alcohol starts to depress the frontal lobe. That’s why people feel that sense of euphoria when they start to drink.”

When they’re sober, people are able to censor themselves, she said.

“We inhibit ourselves from acting on our impulses. As people drink, that function becomes inhibited, which means we don’t tend to censor ourselves as much.”

Fisher-Goodchild said the loss of this capability can often cause us to do things we might regret later.

“When you’ve had more to drink, the emotional control centre becomes unstable,” she said, adding that this means our emotions don’t match up to what’s rational, resulting in anger.

She said the emerging technology may help us in these inebriated moments when reason is lost and emotions are unstable.

“The idea is to be able to do it yourself,” she said, but technology may be useful to us in those moments when it just isn’t possible.

“If you take a harm reduction approach ... it would suggest that if people get into a position where they might not be able to make a good judgment call, then having technology to prevent [it] is a good thing.”

With files from Kelly Loeper

The Craziest Nights Documented

Check out some hilarious (unedited) texts from the “best” and “worst” nights ever, courtesy of website Texts From Last Night:

(843): Grinding on my ninth grade teacher. Dreams really do come true.

(510): he said he didn’t have a condom.
(415): and you said?
(510): that that’s fine cause i was ready to be a mom. yeah—he magically had a condom he forgot about after that.

(915): I told you I was good to drive.
(1-915): dumbass I drove ... you sat in the passengers seat and steered with a paper plate.

(401): This is a mass text. Does anyone know where I am?

(910): wow wtf my bar tab was 80 dollars.


All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.