How on earth did this happen?
April 21, 2019 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I was texting my mother today having a very mundane conversation. I sent her a message that said "I like the clothes you gave me." She replied, "Oh I'm sorry to hear [stepdaughter] needs so many tests." When I asked her what she was talking about, she wrote back "you just texted me that [stepdaughter] is having a colonoscopy and an endoscopy." I had written absolutely nothing like that and never had in the history of her having her phone. There's nothing like showing up in my text history. I just can't fathom how that happened. Any ideas?
posted by Neely O'Hara to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I also forgot to add that oddly enough, my stepdaughter had actually had those procedures done on her five years ago (though years before I got this phone, so I don't think I've had reason to type those words in reference to her in the life of my phone).
posted by Neely O'Hara at 8:44 AM on April 21


maybe someone was texting her as you were texting her, and she got them mixed up.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 8:45 AM on April 21


does your mom have the same phone as five years ago? your new texts may have somehow attached to an old conversation that you had with her five years ago...
posted by noloveforned at 8:47 AM on April 21 [24 favorites]


Get her to take a screen grab of the conversation and text it to you - this eliminates the (very likely) chance she is somehow mistaken.
posted by arnicae at 8:48 AM on April 21 [9 favorites]


One possibility for mis-attributed messages is that their Contacts / Address Book has the wrong phone number attached to someone's name.

Many people don't understand that the linkage between phone number and human name is solely the result of their phone looking in their own local address book. (For SMS; this isn't the case with iMessage and some other over-the-top messaging services.) So if you put John Doe's phone number in Jane Smith's contacts entry, all of John's messages will end up appearing as though they come from Jane. Since many phone messaging UIs don't show the actual phone number, or show it in much smaller text than the name the phone thinks the messages are from, it's easy to confuse people. (Not that I think there's any reason to suspect anything untoward has happened, but there are significant opportunities for chicanery and man-in-the-middle-ing as a result of this loose coupling. It's a truly crap system.)

Where I have seen this come up "in the wild" are when people swap phone numbers within a family. (This is not as common now as it was 10+ years ago, when number portability was more of a pain in the ass and most phones didn't use SIM cards.) E.g. adult wants a new phone and gives Junior their old phone, and rather than having their number ported to the new phone just goes ahead and gets a new number, not realizing that in addition to letting everyone know that they have a new number, they also need to encourage people to remove the old number... or else any texts from Junior, to people who previously had that number saved, will appear to come from them. You can imagine the hilarity that can ensue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:21 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


does your mom have the same phone as five years ago? your new texts may have somehow attached to an old conversation that you had with her five years ago...

When you get a chance to look at mom's phone, this is what you will find to be the case. She probably doesn't text much, so old threads are readily accessible in her message app. She saw that you sent her a message, opened the app, and hit the old thread rather than the new one, or scrolled way back to the old thread by accident.
posted by beagle at 10:15 AM on April 21


My wife once received a "new" text from me that I'd sent months earlier. It was definitely a software glitch of some sort, not a user error: the message appeared to her with a timestamp as though I'd just sent it, but I had to scroll back months to find the same message on my phone. We never figured out what caused it and just wrote it off as a random glitch on her phone, my phone, or with the carrier. Sounds like this may be what happened here.
posted by biogeo at 10:25 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


How common is Stepdaughter’s name as it appeared in the text? Is it possible Edna from
Book club was texting about another mutual acquaintance with the same name, at about the same time?
posted by armeowda at 11:58 AM on April 21


Seconding biogeo. Same thing happened between my wife and me six months ago.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:21 PM on April 21


I had totally forgotten that while the phone is brand new to my mother, it is my father's old phone - it must have been an old message from me to my father five years ago that somehow was sent to the new thread with my mother. Sure sounds like a software glitch!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 12:21 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


It sounds as if it's already reconciled, but as a secondary note, this setting can sometimes end up causing similar confusion.
posted by WCityMike at 1:05 PM on April 21


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