SMS text messaging ... 21st Century vice or virtue?

By: Jo Wintour

The Short Message Service (SMS), more commonly known as textmessaging, is currently the most used mobile phone service.Frantic wrist action is enjoyed everywhere, even to the point ofetiquette, as consumers are spotted texting in restaurants andbars, at weddings and in meetings. The semi-anonymity of 'text'seems key to its popularity, as it provides a comfortable amountof distance, but allows almost instant communication. The worldof SMS is expanding so rapidly that many people are of theopinion that text will overtake talk as the preferred form ofcommunication. It could be argued that a great percentage ofpeople find "text" easier and perhaps less embarrassing toarticulate their thoughts. Many intimate confessions have beencommunicated by text, including the recent escapades of ParisHilton and Charlotte Church.

Research suggests that introverts prefer texting as they havethe opportunity to think about what to say, removing thepressure of articulating an instance response. Some people alsofind text a useful time-saving medium by removing theopportunity for small-talk. With text, mobile users can getstraight to the point, much appreciated by people who simply donot enjoy talking on the phone.

Text opportunities are endless. The Live 8 ticket lottery was avery high profile use of text. Over 26 million people took partin the text messaging campaign this month to support the work ofLive 8. Throughout the concerts, viewers were urged to send atext message consisting of their names in order to strengthenthe message sent to the world leaders. As text is such aconvenient option, many believe that this campaign was moresuccessful than a "phone in" campaign would have been. Theappeal posed little challenge for the public viewers, whositting in the comfort of their own homes, could easily reachfor their mobile phone and interact with the Live 8 campaign.Furthermore, the lucky concert attendees were encouraged to senda quick text in between dancing to the live acts. As this tookvery little effort the response rate to the text appeal wasphenomenal.

There are many companies keen to exploit entertainment productsand packages through mobile phones. The media industry,particularly radio and reality TV shows, is continuing to cashin on this popular method of communication by engaging viewersto text in and express their opinion. Hit TV shows, such as BigBrother, Pop Idol and Celebrity Love Island, are inundated withtexts from the public wishing to save their favourite person.Other media companies promote text as a convenient way to entercompetitions. Text messages ease the tedious routine of enteringa competition via a phone call, where engaged lines andautomated instructions are inevitable, they are also faster andless hassle than snail mail and often more cost-effective.

Entertainment isn't the only industry to exploit SMS. Accordingto textually.org, the top 10 uses for SMS in the US include:

1) Alerting mobile technicians to system errors

2) Alerting mobile execs to urgent voice messages

3) Confirming with mobile sales personnel that a faxed order wasreceived

4) Informing travellers of delays and changes

5) Enabling contract workers to receive and accept projectoffers

6) Keeping stock traders up to date on urgent stock activity

7) Reminding data services subscribers about daily updates

8) Alerting doctors to urgent patient situations

9) Letting mobile sales teams input daily sales figures intocorporate database

10) Sending mobile sales reps reminders of appointments andother schedule details

A more advanced form of text messaging, dubbed the XHIBIT,involves witnesses in criminal court cases automaticallyreceiving a text when they are due to appear in court. Many havefavoured this easy method, claiming it effectively reduces thetime witnesses of crime have to spend waiting around in court.This is also in place to support the police force, who claimthat less time is wasted in the court through this technology.Research suggests that XHIBIT text could save 80,000 police daysevery year.

Additionally, text provides an additional medium for supportservices. Examples include encouraging messages for those tryingto give up smoking and messages of advice for those sufferingfrom anxiety problems. Furthermore, some people rely onreceiving texts with the latest news, such as stock quotes andweather updates.

With the digital and communications market expanding so rapidly,research suggests that text will continue to see manyimprovements and will consequently become a more fundamentalpart of our everyday lives.

For more information about text opportunities and the latestdevelopments see:

http://www.newindpress.com/ http://www.textually.org

Communications
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