There was a time when you had to choose between sitting in front of the TV or meeting up with friends. Now, thanks to TMS, you can do both. Tivea Koam finds what result, exactly, young Cambodians are hoping for when they send a satellite-bound SMS, and whether or not TV relationships stand the test of time
Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, My Space and Hi 5 have become parts of Cambodian university students’ lives in the last couple years. They have been used to stay connected with their friends and family as well as to make more virtual friends online.
However, recently TMS, a system which allows people to have their messages displayed on television, has been getting more popular among teenagers, who may or may be not capable of using and accessing the internet, but wish to make new friends.
Like many other Cambodian youths, Ly Dany, a 21-year-old employee of Beeline, has spent his free time using TMS to get to know more people. Living in Battambang province, Ly Dany said he always leaves TMS on television when finds himself bored with nothing to do.
“I can make new friends in my province by virtue of TMS,” said Ly Dany, a TMS user for more than two years. “When I post my [phone] number on television I can have more friends to chat with and send messages to through my mobile phone.”
Ly Dany added that some of his friends have also found girlfriends via TMS. “They get phone numbers on television. Then they call each other and make a date to hang out and eat out together,” he said.
According to a staff member at MyTV who asked not to be named, TMS was introduced into Cambodia in 2005, but did not become successful until the 2008 launch of MyTV, a network which targets teenagers.
MyTV is the first network which allows TMS users to send messages almost 24 hours a day. Recently some other television stations like Apsara, Bayon and SEATV have also launched a TMS system.
As one of the most successful networks to run the TMS programme, MyTV has strict rules for users to follow. Namely not writing rude words, cursing each other or mentioning political issues. Each TMS costs US$0.03.
The MyTV employee said the amount of TMS messages increases when the channel plays Korean songs, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. An average of 20,000 text messages appearing on the MyTV network daily.
Users claim that playing TMS positively affects their lives, while using the service can improve their English writing skills and they feel happy when they see their words on television. However, some say it’s not entirely positive as they often will stay up until 1am or 2am using the service.
Veteran TV presenter Soun Bopharith, also known as VJ Danny at MyTV, said that TMS was so popular and supported greatly by Cellcard users since they can express their feelings to their friends and also send songs they love to their peers or special friends.
He added that some TMS users have even created their own groups and presently, there are about 15 to 20 identified groups of TMS users.
“They want to create their identity by having their own proper group and this can help them to build a network among teenagers,” VJ Danny said. “They are happy to be with their group and they can hang out together.”
VJ Danny added that MyTV also encouraged those groups by creating a programme called TMS Tone, which gives the opportunity to TMS groups to present a song they like to the audience.
“They can show their courage and support for art by appearing on MyTV with their group,” he said. “Sometimes MyTV interviews them in order to get to know activities in their groups and prints T-shirts for them.”
Khouch Cheata, a 19-year-old student at Singapore International School, is also a leader of the Kara group, which has about 150 members. He said he created the group to make friends on television closer like a family. “If we just play without a proper group, we know each other, but it is not a close relationship. Therefore, I decided to initiate the Kara group,” he said.
Khouch Cheata said his group was created in May last year, but they did not do a lot together, but every now and then about 20 or 30 of them meet and go for a walk together. He added that his group had been invited to MyTV about three or four times.
“It is really delightful to play TMS when I feel bored and have nothing to do. Also I can learn to write English better,” he said. Kouch Cheata spends an average of $1 a day playing TMS.
Soda Lyta, a member of the Shinee TMS group, said she plays TMS to get support and motivation from her friends. “Sometimes I feel unhappy and I need people to talk to or message them. So I post my number,” she said, She then receives phone calls from people or messages encouraging her and giving advice about her thoughts and her life.
However, she added that there were some people who sent her rude message when she posted her number on television.
“They sent messages with rude and mean words which are unacceptable for women [to read],” she said.