The Auto-Correct Failure Feature

March 4th, 2014

It has happened to everyone who texts: You type in your message, click send, and only then realize that the auto-correct feature has substituted a word that makes no sense in the context of the sentence. Most of the time, it’s just annoying. Sometimes, it can be pretty funny. But occasionally, auto-correct inadvertently morphs your note into an off-color or offensive message. Recently this particular writer was trying to congratulate a member of his youth group on an excellent essay. Unfortunately the message she received was, “Your essay is excrement!”

Texting can be a tricky form of communication. It’s great for short messages, but trying to have deeper conversations risks misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions all play an important role in conveying meaning when people are talking to one another. All of that is absent with texting, so you are left to guess with what emotion you should read the words you receive. What if you guess incorrectly? You could feel as though you’ve been insulted when the words weren’t even written in anger.

People sometimes make other assumptions when texting. A dead phone means your friend can’t respond; but on your end, it could seem like you’re being ignored. Short responses may be because your friend is busy, but it could seem like he or she is being terse or distant.

Novelist L. M. Montgomery once wrote, “It’s dreadful what little things lead people to misunderstand each other.” How true for texting! When you consider the shortcomings of the nature of texting, and then add in the occasional shenanigans of auto-correct, it’s easy to see how misunderstandings can happen.

The Power of the Asterisks

When people see that auto-correct has changed something in their message, they will often attempt to fix it by sending the proper word, preceded by an asterisk, such as: *excellent! This quickly clears up any confusion or misunderstandings. Sometimes, though, misunderstandings can go unnoticed and, without being rectified, can hurt feelings and damage relationships.

Of course, texting isn’t the only source of misunderstandings. Sometimes people make assumptions or just simply don’t bother to verify their information. There is an entire website,, that exists just to debunk rumors and scams that spread like wildfire across the Internet. Unfortunately there isn’t quite so convenient a clearinghouse for information on who was flirting with whom, which person wasn’t invited to what party, and who said what about your outfit.

Here We Go Again, Again

Misunderstandings are nothing new. They even dogged Jesus. Although he told his followers several times that he would be handed over to the authorities in Jerusalem and killed, but would rise again on the third day, none of them were sitting outside the tomb waiting for him on that Sunday morning. He never went over battle plans or military strategy with his disciples, but most of them thought he was planning to carry out a coup against the Roman government. Even after his resurrection, Acts 1:6 records that “those who had gathered together asked Jesus, ‘Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?’” Ten days later, though, the disciples received the Holy Spirit and a greatly-enhanced understanding of Jesus’ mission and purpose (see Acts 2:1-36).

Certainly the Holy Spirit can be instrumental in helping us to clear up any misunderstandings we have with one another, while also blessing us with a greater understanding and a deeper appreciation of God. God’s desire is for us to live in right relationships with one another and with our Creator.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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