Alan Dee: Count to ten before you decide to send

I WAS trying to ignore it, hoping that it would go away – but all weekend the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was the mother-in-law from hell. It’s an easy target, everyone still has weddings on the brain after that royal shindig, let’s go.

Let’s set the scene – posh bloke is planning to marry posh bird he already lives with, and for some reason his stepmum decided to give the bride-to-be some tart advice on how to behave. By email. And then everyone wonders why it spread around the globe like wildfire and became the number one topic of conversation at coffee mornings, water cooler and fag breaks worldwide.

Now there are claims that whole episode was just an elaborate PR stunt because the groom is starting an online wedding planning business. Who cares?

There’s only one lesson to draw from this whole affair, and it’s not whether you ought to send a polite thank you note after staying for the weekend or ask before helping yourself to another sandwich. In fact, it’s got nothing to do with weddings.

As intelligent beings, we’re supposed to be able to learn from the mistakes of others – but how many more email scandals do we need before we all accept that every time we press ‘send’ it could come back to bite us?

In the old days, the whole tedious process of getting something off your chest meant that you probably gave up before following through, whether that involved sharpening the quill, filling your fountain pen or checking the typewriter ribbon.

By the time you’d found an envelope, stuck on a stamp and headed down to the postbox you’d probably have counted to 10 and come to your senses.

Now the seductive ease with which you can have a rant, or do something else daft with the aid of the cutting edge of 21st century communication technology, allows you to make a horlicks of a situation in double quick time – and once you’ve hit the button, there’s no calling it back.

I recall reading a while back about late-night filters that you could add to your email and phone so that any emails or texts you dashed off after a certain hour would be held back until the morning, so that once you’d sobered up you could have second thoughts.

But the vast majority of us aren’t that canny – and we still haven’t got the message that having a right go at someone who isn’t necessarily our best friend could spread to others, and make us look like a right twerp.

Nor have people twigged that posting those amusing pictures of holiday high jinks on Facebook could possibly be a bit of an embarrassment down the line. Five years from now, when you’re standing for public office or trying to seal that high-flying job, those amusing images of you off your face and wearing a mankini might take some explaining.

So that’s the lesson, everyone – don’t ever use email, or the internet, for anything you want to keep restricted.

And as for momzilla, the bride to be should never have passed it on, but just replied politely in the following terms: You’re not his real mum, he’s over 21 so it’s nothing to do with you, you’ve had three husbands yourself so what do you know, and are we still on for Christmas this year?