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Forwards March

SMS forwards are both an entertainment and a nuisance

Velany Fernandes | September 03, 2003 11:03 IST

* When the twin blasts occurred in Mumbai on August 25 students in the Mumbai Unversity received forwarded SMSs saying, 'Repeat of March 12, 1993', 'Blasts in South Mumbai'.

* Cajetain Sequeira, married and father of two, received a flirtatious forward from a woman friend. Shocked, he called her up. She explained that while she was at an interview, her friends had used her mobile to forward romantic messages to everyone in her phone book.

* Before Kaante was released a number of forwards did the rounds. While one said Amitabh was the undercover cop, the other declared, it was Kumar Gaurav. Reportedly, these rumours, helped the film do well because of their contradictory claims.

SMS forwards are a simple (and expensive) means of sharing everything from group messages to jokes. Combining pithy messages and the speed of technology, these instant messages can be practical, funny, offensive or irritating.


Forwards make communicating with a large group effortless. If an urgent meeting is called in the office, or lectures rescheduled in college, a quick SMS is forwarded to everyone.

Forwards, that relay urgent messages, act as a speedy news network. This is what happened around 1.30 pm on August 25. Messages were forwarded, informing people about the explosions in South Mumbai.

Rumour mills

However, if news travels quickly, so does a rumour. That is probably why the mobile network in Mumbai failed (or was shut down) soon after the blasts.

Forwarded rumours could be speculations about a newly released film, or gossip about a common friend. They range from the 'time pass' kind to the spiteful. Some people revel in spreading tales through this mode. The fact, that a story cooked up by them could influence so many, gives them a thrill.

Cheap Messages

Most forwards, however, are not about business, lectures or rumours. They comprise bawdy jokes and picture messages. Some hesitate to share such jokes in public, as they are unsure of people's reaction. But they are comfortable sending these through an impersonal medium like forwards.

Says Siddhartha Rao, who works at a call centre in Mumbai, "Knowing how shy I am, my friends are surprised when I forward a cheap joke or picture. Somehow, forwarding a joke does not seem as bad as relating it."

Youth or adults delete lewd or flirtatious forwards before their parents or spouses read them. While lewd jokes can be embarrassing, flirtatious forwards could drive a wedge between couples.

Those who do not have mobile-savvy parents, choose not to teach them how to use the cell. In this way they hope to avoid getting caught with cheap forwards.

Not everyone appreciates indecent forwards, or jokes about particular communities. But they can do little to stop these. Email and chat messengers provide a 'block sender' option. Mobile phones do not.

Most people do not protect their phones with codes. Anyone who uses their cell can forward obscene jokes or flirtatious messages to others. Friends think it is 'fun' to play such pranks, little realising that they can cause misunderstandings.

Costly service

SMS forwards are also expensive. Spending money just to send across a joke or picture seems like a waste of money. Shaun D'cunha, who works for JP Morgan suggests, "Maybe SMS forwards could be charged, based on the number of words or characters."

What a bother!

Despite forwards being an unnecessary expense, some people forward messages without a second thought. They consider it a good way of relieving boredom. Such careless forwarding was rampant when cell phone service provider Orange offered free SMS for a month. While some enjoy receiving forwards all the time, many find it annoying.

Those who barrage others with irrelevant forwards do not realise that their messages are more of a nuisance, than a treat. After a while, people delete their forwards without bothering to glance through them.

Hidden language

Not all forwards are irrelevant or meaningless. Jokes, funny pictures and friendship messages may seem like useless entertainment, but beneath the humour of the forward, another message is hidden. It is a way of saying, 'I am thinking of you.' As Pushkar Chogle, an avid SMS forwarder, says, "Its not the messages that always matter, just the feeling that you are remembered."

Some take the trouble of editing the forward, so it suits the person or relationship. Others forward messages only when the situation demands it, like an inspirational or comforting message when a friend is depressed.

Such thoughtful forwards speak a language of their own. They subtly convey to the recipient that the sender is really concerned. Casual forwards, on the other hand, suggest that you have nothing better to do.

The next time you decide to forward a message, think twice: Is it funny and entertaining, or is it offensive and unsolicited? More importantly, what does it say about you?

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