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Smartphone Tips to Avoid Tipsy Texting and Posting Over the Holidays

It’s the morning after an evening of holiday overindulgence. You wake up bleary-eyed, grab your phone and discover, with creeping shame, all the tipsy texts or posts you fired off the night before.

Relatable? Maybe. Avoidable? Yes.

Don’t forget that digital missteps can cause temporary awkwardness or very real devastation. Whether you’re attending the company holiday party or prepping for a New Year’s Eve soiree, a smartphone game plan could protect your personal and professional life. It makes it harder for you to send texts, call others or post pics that you—and your unwilling contacts—might later regret.

Drunk texts are older than smartphones. What’s new? The device settings that can help set up a block between your thumbs and other people’s screens. Social-media apps have added tools to help, too, ensuring any cringey posts that slip through the cracks have a limited and forgiving audience.

The catch: You must set things up before the first sip. 

“You want to walk into the party prepared,” said

Diane Gottsman,

an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, an executive- and business-training company. “You need to do things pre-emptively to put more time between your thoughts and your actions. Don’t leave anything to chance.”

Let these smartphone features and apps be your first line of defense. 

Limit Communication

The most powerful tools can effectively prevent you from making calls and texts.

iPhone users can block incoming and outgoing phone calls, FaceTime calls and messages with everyone but your most important (i.e., emergency) contacts. And you can pick a time frame to cover your behavior just for the night.

To set communication limits, go to Settings > Screen Time > Communication Limits > During Downtime > Specific Contacts. Choose which contacts you want access to at all times. Then, to select which hours you would like to be incommunicado, go to Settings > Screen Time > Downtime.

When you schedule downtime in Settings, only phone calls and apps that you choose to allow are available.

Downtime is different from Do Not Disturb and other Focus modes because it stops communications in both directions. It renders most other apps inaccessible for the duration as well, so it could prevent social-media blurts.

Once downtime is on, you will be able to reach only your specified contacts. If you try to call or text others, their names or numbers appear in red in your list of recent calls or messages, and your communication won’t go through. To reverse this, you would have to go back to the Downtime setting and turn it off. Setting a Screen Time passcode can add to the friction.

Android phones have a Focus mode that will let you choose apps you want to pause, so you can’t use them for a window of time. Go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & parental controls > Focus mode. You can set a schedule so it turns on automatically.

Delete or Block Contacts

“Seeing certain names on your phone might compel you to compose a text,” Ms. Gottsman said. “Once a false sense of confidence takes over, all of a sudden, boom—you’ve hit send.”

Consider writing down the contact info of any red-flag individuals and stashing it in a desk drawer. Then, delete their info from your phone before heading out. If you want to keep them in, change their names to something like “Do Not Text This Number.”

If you’re more afraid they will be reaching out to you, you can block their numbers by going to their last message or call. This is simple to undo.

Enlist an App

When temptation is high, and willpower is low, you can employ apps to limit your mishaps. They’re often clunkier than built-in smartphone tools, but they could potentially help more.

AppBlock, available for iPhone and Android, lets you select specific apps and app categories you would like to temporarily ban. The free version lets you pick up to three apps. While AppBlock is running, a pop-up will prevent you from opening them.

For $1.99, iPhone users can install Drunk Mode Keyboard. It lets you open your social-networking apps, but once activated, it blocks your keyboard to prevent you from commenting and sending DMs.

AppBlock lets you prevent access to certain apps for a set amount of time. Drunk Mode Keyboard can temporarily prevent you from using your iPhone keyboard across many apps.

Bacco—Drunk Mode for Android users is free in the Google Play Store. It lets users stop themselves from texting words that might get them in trouble. (You choose the words.) The word will appear, instead, as a series of asterisks. It also blocks access to certain apps, unless you can pass a sobriety test of puzzles and patterns.

Narrow Your Audience

If your biggest concern is making an involuntary outburst on social media, most major apps have guardrail features to limit who sees what you post, and how long it’s visible at all. You can make your account private, which could protect you—unless one of your approved inner-circle friends takes a screenshot.

You can also share posts with a smaller crowd by setting up a list of Close Friends on Instagram or a list of select followers using Twitter Circle.

Facebook and TikTok let you easily narrow your posting to an audience of one: yourself.

On Facebook, tap Settings & Privacy > Settings > Audience and visibility > Posts > Who can see your future posts. Tap “Only me”—but don’t forget to change that back later when you actually want an audience.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

What precautions do you take to keep yourself from overtexting and oversharing? Join the conversation below.

On TikTok, go to Privacy > Interactions and switch your default audience for Stories (which stay visible for 24 hours) and Duets (remixes of other creators’ videos) to “Only me.” For your main TikTok video posts, before sharing, tap “Who can watch this video” then choose “Only me.” The app will remember this preference.

Unsend and Edit Messages

If you do send an undesirable text, you might be able to reverse course. But you must act quickly.

Apple’s newest iPhone software allows users two minutes to recall recently sent iMessages—even after the person has seen or even replied to them. Long-press the text bubble you want to recall and tap Undo Send to remove the message from your phone and the receiver’s device.

If you just want to tweak the text, Apple gives you 15 minutes. In the same menu, tap Edit.

Better it doesn’t come to this, however. The recipient must be running iOS 16 or later for either of these to work and, with edited texts, recipients can easily tap to see your original words.

Though Android texting doesn’t have a built-in unsend function, WhatsApp gives you two days to delete messages from other people’s inboxes. But there’s no guarantee they haven’t already seen your words or images.

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Write to Dalvin Brown at [email protected]

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