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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hey babe, can i have text with you?

Hey babe, can i have text with you?

In the age of Twitter and Facebook, one medium trumps all when it comes to love: SMS

I like a romantic love [text] message, but email? Not so much."

ABOUT two years ago, Yaya, a Khmer human resources officer, was asked out on a first date by a man after several months of face-to-face flirting, in a form that is becoming more and more common: via text message.

“I thought he was going to ask me out,” she said. “I was very confident that he would.”

She went on the date, and he was brave enough to ask her out on a second date, this time without the restriction of 160 characters. “I prefer face to face, you can look into their eyes and know what they want.”

More and more, the text message has become the next-generation ice-breaker, and pick-up lines like “did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”, are being replaced by the faceless “hey, fancy a drink sometime : ).”

The SMS is now seen as a relevant and useful relationship mechanism. A survey released by American mobile phone carrier AT&T in 2008 revealed that 40 percent of text users with a partner, or dating, believe that text messaging plays a prominent role in their romantic relationship.

In the survey, 68 percent of people admitted sending a love message via text, 67 percent said they flirted using SMS and 28 percent noted that “thinking of you” is the most common message received from a significant other.

And it’s a trend that has started to take hold here in the Cambodian capital.

“Yes, we started sending each other love messages,” Yaya explained without divulging the juicy details. “I like a romantic love [text] message, but email? Not so much.”

Certainly, it’s the text that has evolved into the cheap love medium for the new age.

Gone are the days of the love letter, or the break-up letter which Homer Simpson popularised with the immortal “Hey babe, welcome to Dumpsville. Population: you.”

The fax never really took off in terms of love-hate exchanges, with the notable exception of ex-Genesis frontman Phil Collins informing his second wife he wanted a divorce via facsimile.

Instead, we now live in a world where British television host Eamonn Holmes proposed to his wife via text during a day at the races, and then immediately became recognised across Britain as something of a Romeo as a result.

But is it a good thing? A 2004 study published by the University of Plymouth in Britain looking into the social and psychological effects of the SMS revealed that students who preferred using their mobiles to text rather than talk were “significantly more lonely and significantly more anxious than talkers”, but in contrast found that serial texters had developed “deeper relationships with the person they texted the most”.

What this means is probably as irrelevant as a scientific study on texting given that messaging in relationships is most likely here to stay, despite the apparent psychological differences between the new age and the old school.

One western mobile phone staple that hasn’t yet taken off in the Kingdom, however, is the drunken SMS. The “booty text” is the next stage in the evolution of the “booty call” and the last resort for desperate males out on a big night.

A Facebook group – one of many – has been established in honour of the phenomenon. Titled “When drunk, my phone should say ‘Are you sure you want to send this text?’”, the page has over 1.8 million “fans” worldwide.

One member of the group, Rob Lowe from England, believes that phones “should come with built-in breathalysers”.

In the absence of such technology, the drunken text will live on in Western culture, but it remains to be seen whether Cambodians will adopt this last-gasp measure.

“I’ve been messaged for a drink, but not by [someone] drunk!” says Yaya, with an clear look of bewilderment following the question.
Give it time, you’ll soon get the message.



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