More opportunities for a stupid ‘send’

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More opportunities for a stupid ‘send’

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We’ve all had the embarrassing experience of sending a text message to the wrong person. You may have sent a message intended for your boyfriend to your father. Or messages talking about your boss to a co-worker could have been sent to the boss instead. But these are harmless mistakes.

However, if you are having an extramarital affair and send a message intended for your girlfriend to your wife, that’s a different story. You have to prepare for a war, indeed. And it will result in a casualty, as well. Anyone who lacks prudence and dares to have an affair is either stupid or reckless, or both. The age of text messaging brings both comedy and tragedy. A slip of a finger can lead to tremendous social impact.

Not so long ago, a prosecutor who intended to send a text message to a colleague regarding the half-hearted prosecution reform actually sent it to a hungry journalist. The prosecutor ended up quitting his job. He was browsing his “recent calls” list to look for his colleague, but mistakenly chose the reporter whom he had just spoken with.

Earlier this year, a Blue House secretary thought he had sent a text message celebrating the ruling party’s nomination of his friend as a candidate in the then-upcoming general election. But the message was delivered to a spokesperson of the opposition Democratic United Party and led to allegations of Blue House intervention in the general election. It is an age of finger scandals.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of SMS, or short message service. On Dec. 3, 1992, British computer engineer Neil Papworth of Sema Group sent Richard Jarvis, a technology director at Vodafone, a text message that read “Merry Christmas.” Thanks to the revolutionary development of mobile technology, six billion mobile phone users worldwide send and receive seven trillion SMS messages every year. That is 200,000 texts every second.

However, SMS is not as powerful as before. With the rapid spread of free mobile instant messaging services such as KakaoTalk in Korea, users are using SMS - which charges a fee for sending messages - less and less. KakaoTalk’s 27 million users send 4.1 billion messages a day, or 150 per user.

Yearly per-user SMS messages on the three leading mobile service providers drastically decreased from 7,240 in 2010 to 5,060 in 2011 to 1,485 in the first half of 2012. In response, the providers jointly developed a mobile messenging service, Joyn, to be unveiled as early as this week. Consumers can now choose from a greater variety of text message services. But we shouldn’t only welcome the change. The risk of “finger scandals” is growing, too. Once you spill the water, there is no way of putting it back into the glass. Before you regret the slip of your finger, you need to make sure your message is delivered to the right person.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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