I’ve been meaning to write about the “Wrong Numbers” for a long time now. As you know, it’s one of my favorite things to do… sending out positive or uplifting texts to random phone numbers and seeing what people reply.
But, there’s a very un-fun side to it, too. And sometimes even a dark side. And yesterday I goofed up on one of the Wrong Numbers that I shared with you, so in the spirit of transparency, let me share reality with you when it comes to these things.
Every time I post new Wrong Number screenshots, lots of people say that they want to jump in and send out their own texts, too, so I want to let you all know what you can probably expect if you do.
The very first time I did a Wrong Numbers post, I used my own phone number. That was the one and only time I made that mistake. I think I sent out 219 texts, or something like that, and I lost any resemblance of a life for the next three days before all the texts finally stopped. I almost changed my number, worried about what I had gotten myself into.
Most people either didn’t reply to those texts or told me to buzz off. And then there were the occasional incredible replies. But…
Even the incredible replies were almost impossible to screen capture. Most of the time (at least with certain batches) the person on the other end sent several texts back and forth with me first, asking me to assure them I didn’t know them, and asking me how they can be sure, etc. So, I edit most of those “how do I trust you” texts out because they just aren’t important (most of the time) to the Wrong Number replies.
But, anyway, the hardest part that you really don’t see (and this is inevitable) is the handful of people I text who go absolutely crazy thinking I am surely someone they know, not believing me that I really am a stranger. After the first batch, it was so bad that I actually decided to never do it again. But with time, I tried again, and I have learned exactly the right things to say to these people to calm them down and not feel like I am treading dangerous ground. In fact, I’ve gotten so good at it that I rarely have problems at all anymore (usually it’s as simple as disclosing exactly who I am and sending them a link to one of my Wrong Numbers posts). But that first batch? Wow. I was honestly worried about the mental safety of a couple of them. One of them texted me literally hundreds of times, tried to call me in the middle of the night repeatedly, and I finally had to block her because she just wouldn’t believe me that I wasn’t her ex-boyfriend or someone who knew her ex-boyfriend.
Thankfully I have it down to a system, now. I spend maybe one full day every few weeks sending out texts to random numbers because I really do love doing it.
After the learning curve of that first batch, I tried getting a second throw-away phone for the next couple, but now I just use a Google Voice number because it’s easier, and cheap, and disposable, and I can turn it off as well.
And after I receive enough replies in a batch to share with all of you, I clean up the text replies. This often involves removing several clutter texts and then re-texting myself the exact same texts via my phone’s native texting system. This helps to 1) make certain texts more legible, 2) remove parts of texts that hurt anonymity for the person on the other side (names, places, etc.), and 3) create a texting screenshot that looks good and is easily readable. In the end, you often get the exact conversation. Sometimes you get a slightly altered one. But the replies themselves are always real. People reply all of those amazing things, and it’s why I love it so much.
So, yeah. That’s the hard side of it all. It’s not just amazing replies and slam, bam, done. It actually takes a lot of work and energy.
In the end, I rather enjoy doing it because I get such first hand glimpses of humans from all over the place. I’ve now texted to Utah (that was my first batch), Indiana, Colorado, Washington, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Illinois.
There are a handful of people I still occasionally check in on from every single batch. People who were having hard times, or just fun people who I sent the post to after I published it, and they still text from time to time. I also get unknown numbers sending me similar texts a few times each week. How people get my number, I don’t know. But I laugh. Whatever. They’re always positive.
Anyway, I’ve had new ideas for different types of texts to send out, too. Some of those ideas completely flopped and either very few people replied, or lots of people got a little annoyed or upset by them. Others got lots of replies but little worth using. It’s just the nature of the beast. The ones you’ve seen are the ones that I got lots of great replies. I always send out several feeler texts before I fully commit to any new message.
And, there it is. Wrong Numbers. Perhaps my favorite ongoing series to share with all of you.
So… yeah. Just be careful if you decide to do it yourself. I have been sent some amazing screenshots of your own; so many amazing texts sent and the amazing replies you’ve received back. But, I’ve gotten far more messages from people telling me they tried it and… “YIKES, DAN, HELP! WHAT DO I DO NOW!?” Haha. So be careful. If you do it, do it with caution, and be prepared to deal with a few “less than stable” people. But also be prepared for some amazing replies because you’ll most likely get some of those, too. And I love seeing them when you do, so send them my way!
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. I’d love some of your ideas for texts to send out in the comments. And watch the SDL Facebook page. I’m going to start taking requests for area codes soon!