28 January 2006

SMS Greetings Replacing Hardcopy Greeting Cards - Good or Bad?

Tonight is the eve of the Lunar New Year and firstly I would like to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year (CNY).

In the good old days (some readers just love this term), we used to send hardcopy CNY cards by post or by hand to wish all our friends and relatives a happy CNY. The same was done for X'mas and all other major festivals. The more traditional of us still practise this as I continue to receive some paper X'mas and CNY cards each year. Most of such cards are handwritten, adding a personal touch to the greetings which somehow can be felt by the recipients.

However it should be obvious to everyone that there is a growing trend in the last several years. First, the electronic cards were popular and still are. We would exchange them with fervour using our office as well as personal email accounts. Then in the last few years, we also started to receive and send more and more SMS greetings, even MMS ones. With the advent of the electronic age and the Internet, I guess this is an inexorable process. Nothing bad about that (unless perhaps when you happen to be Singpost or is in the card-related business).

It is true that SMS greetings lack that personal touch. A text message cannot contain very much emotion although we try to include as many smileys and emoticons as we could to mitigate this shortcoming. On the contrary, even if you use ALL CAPS (interpreted as SHOUTING in emails and SMS) the recipients may not understand that you are shouting at them. They may be unaware of this convention, thinking that it is your habit or a matter of convenience. They don't get to hear the tone of your voice and neither do they see your facial expressions. 3G video phones may change all that in the not too distant future but right now, not many people have them or even want to have them. (Perhaps there are some people who either consider their own faces to be not worth looking at or consider that the people they often call have such faces.)

Besides, what makes SMS greetings really impersonal is that most of the greetings are actually being forwarded from person to person hundreds or even thousands of times. Why, I have received exactly the same SMS greeting from different people before and I believe so have you.

Therefore SMS greetings should be used with care and discretion. Tonight, I received a SMS greeting from an old friend which I'd rather not have received. Let me explain. Here are 2 screenshots of that SMS. (The identity of the sender has been masked out with M's to protect the guilty innocent.)

So far so good. It would have been alright if the SMS ended there. But when I scrolled down further, this screen appeared:

Now, I am not particularly superstitious but neither am I a fan of chain mails, er... sms. (This kind of stuff is for kids and the immatured.) So is this a threat? What is the greeting trying to convey? Goodwill or bad? What have I to regret if I just hit the delete button? Why send (or forward) such a greeting at an auspicious time like this? I am sure that my friend (until now) meant no ill-intent. But still, I consider his sending me the sms as indiscretion on his part, to put it very mildly. Or in poor taste, to put it slightly more strongly.

My wife received an even more badly-worded chain SMS a few years ago. It cursed that some misfortune would befall her if she didn't followed the given instructions. My wife just deleted that sms and the sender from her list of friends and was none the worse for the incident, giving me even more courage to do something about the sms.

I am usually not a shrewd and calculating person although I can be quite clever and witty sometimes. I thought long and hard at how I should take revenge respond, if at all. To ignore the SMS would have been impolite. I figured that I should show some displeasure to convey the signal that such actions should never be repeated. But I cannot be seen as too rude. So my response was:

I didn't get any response from the sender which may be interpreted as good news. Maybe he got the message. But I thought that if he did, he could at least have the courtesy to say a word of apology, no? (So friend, if you are reading this post, I am still angry with you.) Okay I know that it's hard to say sorry and I should live and let live. Why let such a trivial matter spoil the festive spirit?

So 'Happy New Year again to all and sundry'. (Frankly, I would have been very happy to receive such a simple SMS greeting myself.)


frannxis said...

Normally I worded my own SMS greetings. If I want to forward those I rceived, I edit them first.

Chris said...

Oh boy. What have I done? Was it me? (scratching my head trying hard to think if I had sent you the chain sms). The way we two take swipes at each other, I'm sure your other fans would have misconstrued that I was the guilty, I mean the innocent party. Let me assure all that nothing is further from the truth. I'm INNOCENT! Victor, say something! 还我青白!

Joke aside, Victor, I think you are confused with the difference between a Chain SMS disguised as a "greeting" and a SMS that truly conveys a well-meaning message. Your grip about SMS is nothing new my friend. Remember the Electronic Mail, aka email? We used to have what was called the snail-mail. Would you like to turn back the clock Victor? Imaging blogging with snail-mail, if it's possible? U think we could respond to each other almost within real-time? Then what about MSN? Is it possible?

Technology is here to stay, like it or not. So why not embrace it? Chain SMS is really nothing new. In the past, people do it the snail mail way. Imaging having to buy 20 stamps and 20 envelops, just to ward off the supposed bad luck. SMS makes it so easy for you. Still complain ahh? Not that I believe in them anyway, cause I think only those who are truly superstitious or "wu leow" are capable of doing.

Like what you did, I always hit the delete button.

Lam Chun See said...

I prefer the old way. For the e-method, somehow doesn't feel so personal. Once you off the computer, it is no longer there. Whereas for the card, you can put it at you workstation or hang it up etc. So to the 'laudies' I usually send cards.

Evan said...

hi victor, happy new year! thx for informing me that you've replied in your blog. i knew it, juz that i had been too busy with CNY that i thought i might wanna reply later :p

ok yea, basically there are only a few options now. wait for subsequent promotions that i fancy, pay the non-promo price for the time being. the nx promo (for singnet) will be on 17 feb...so i guess i'll hv to pay the full price for another month first. i've actually emailed starhub abt their free pcs promotions but they've yet to reply. will see how it goes. free digital voice is until nx year...suppose if starhub doesnt extend this offer..then its as good as paying for a fixed line. so if thats the case, no pt signing up and then terminate my fixed line. so, juz wait n c.

happy a blessed & prosperous new year...thx for all your replies..i appreciate your time =)

Victor said...

Chris, of course you are in the clear and it should also be clear to you and others that you were not the one I was referring to in this post. Because if it were you, I would certainly have told you off in the face, no holds barred.

I certainly have much more than only one friend, you know. But I think that I am resigned to the fate that most of my friends are quite like you - always taking swipes at me, whether purposely or unintentionally. Sigh.

Chris said...

Ok Victor, no more horsing around henceforth. But one last jab for old time's sake...

This CNY, the God of Properity decrees that whoever receives this well-wish will have his fortune increased 10 folds if he chooses not to forward this message. DO NOT PASS THIS ON.

Happy Lunar 3rd New Year.