FASHION buyer Diane (not her real name) is happily attached to a man whom she intends to marry.
But for the past year, she has also been secretly flirting with a colleague via SMS. Sometimes, she will even indulge in naughty SMS exchanges with her 'virtual lover' while she is out with her boyfriend.
'I know it's wrong but I can't help it,' she says. 'SMS flirting is so convenient. You can do it anywhere and anytime. Best of all, it's silent.'
Whatever you call it, there is no running away from the fact that SMS, which stands for short message service, has become an increasingly popular avenue for flirting among Singaporeans.
Almost a quarter - or 23 per cent - of people here are guilty of sending sexy or flirtatious messages to someone other than their own partner.
That is according to a recent online survey by Britain-based software developer LogicaCMG, which surveyed more than 8,500 people in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, Italy, Britain and Germany, as well as Singapore.
It was conducted last November and the results were released on Thursday.
However, Singaporeans still trail their Malaysian neighbours in virtual cheating - 40 per cent of the latter are said to engage in flirtatious messaging behind their partner's back.
Singaporeans are ranked fourth across the various countries surveyed. Malaysia is first, followed by the Philippines and Russia.
LogicaCMG handles over half of the text messages sent between mobile phones around the world.
According to the study, Singaporeans are among the most likely to use their mobile phones to get out of a relationship. It is ranked second, after the Philippines.
Almost one in 10 respondents - or 9 per cent - have dumped a partner via SMS.
In the poll of about 1,000 mobile phone users in Singapore aged between 16 and 64, 30 per cent said they have flirted with their current partner via SMS.
Commenting on the findings, LogicaCMG telecoms chief marketing officer Jayne Chace says: 'The reaction people have when their phone beeps to signal an incoming message resonates deeply within them, and this brings out the best and worst in people.'
The number of SMS messages sent in Singapore has been rising steadily in recent years.
According to the latest half-yearly statistics from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, 949.6 million SMS messages were sent in Singapore in December last year alone, compared to about 840 million in December 2005.
The survey also showed that 21 per cent of respondents say they have checked their partner's mobile phone to see if there were messages from other people.
Private investigator Dennis Lee from Covert Acquisition tells Life! that the number is 'low' and he suspects that the real figure could be higher.
He says that about 70 or 80 per cent of his clients regularly check their partner's phones for suspicious messages or calls.
The remaining 20 per cent either have not done so because they respect their partner's privacy or could not do so as their partner's phone is protected by a password.
He adds that sometimes, checking a partner's phone might not be such a bad thing.
'It is healthier to check rather than let your imagination run wild,' he says.
However, marriage counsellor Benny Bong from consulting and training agency FamilyWorks feels that the survey results for SMS flirting and phone checking is a worrying sign.
'It is something that is waiting to explode,' he says.
'Many people are playing with the idea that SMS flirting is not dangerous, but they are just fooling themselves.'
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