Maybe madness in the messages

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 October, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 October, 1997, 12:00am

In this electronic era, when people around the globe are connected by all kinds of communications tools and media such as telephones, e-mail, faxes and video conferences, I could now call home from work via satellite.

In reality, though, that is quite impossible as neither my parents nor I myself can operate anything more sophisticated than a video recorder or an answering machine.

If television has killed the art of conversation, these electronic communications devices have encouraged people to 'talk' again, making them realise that watching Melrose Place all day long is not a bad idea after all.

You see, it is interesting that as much new information becomes available to us, we have to digest an equal amount of useless data and plain rubbish.

In layman's terms, it is like supermarket offers: when you buy three bottles of shampoo, you get a door handle free. Give people more chance to communicate and express themselves, and the longer they will babble.

To give you a good example, let's take a look at offices in which workers are linked up by an electronic-mail or message system.

Through these systems, workers can send each other very useful and important messages such as 'Where are the latest sales figures?'; 'Please type up the meeting minute by 4pm'; 'Shut up, you cretin!'; and 'Fancy boozing in Wan Chai tonight?' Here is a typical exchange between a couple of busy office workers linked by the message system (I describe them as 'busy' because they never stop tapping on their computer keyboards behind their desks.) Message Sender 1: 'God, I am bored!!!' Message Sender 2: 'Me too! What are you up to?' MS 1: 'Nothing much. Just sending people messages about me being bored.' MS 2: 'Me too! I am so tired and hungry . . .' MS 1: 'Time to eat. Where shall we lunch?' MS 2: 'How can you ask such a question! It is only 11am!' MS 1: 'Okay, tell me what else I should be thinking about?' MS 2: 'What did you do last night? Have you been up to no good?' MS 1: 'None of your business!! Ask me something that is work-related!' MS 2: 'Hmmmm . . .' (Sometime later.) MS 1: 'I can't believe it is lunchtime already!!!' MS 2: 'Stop pretending to be busy. Let's go!' (After lunch.) MS 1: 'God, I am bored!!!' MS 2: 'Me too! What are you up to?' MS 1: 'Nothing much. Just sending people messages about me being bored.' MS 2: 'Didn't we have this conversation earlier on?' MS 1: 'Does it matter?' MS 2: 'Nope.' MS 1: '***SIGH!!!*** I have to type up a report for Mrs Chan. It's so so SO boring. ***Yawn Yawn***' MS 1: 'Unlucky. If I had to work for Mrs Chan I would have committed suicide a long time ago.' MS 2: 'She is such a cow!' MS 1: 'Of course she is! Other words and adjectives I associate Mrs Chan with are: mean, unattractive, obnoxious, incompetent, four-eye, crooked-legged space alien, fat, ugly and haemorrhoids.' (Long pause.) MS 1: 'Don't you agree? MS 2: 'Agree to what? MS 1: 'That Mrs Chan is mean, ugly etc.' MS 2: 'What are you talking about?' MS 1: 'Didn't you get my last message . . .

(Another pause.) MS 1: Oh no! Oh my God!!!' MS 3: 'So, who is mean, unattractive, obnoxious, incompetent, fat, ugly and has haemorrhoids? Step inside my office NOW!' So, you see, this message system - great communication tool though it is - does have its disadvantages and, like other modern inventions such as washing machines, is liable to backfire.

A colleague last week confessed to me that, via the message system, he often sent the wrong information to the wrong person.

His message reads: 'Messages for leng lui [pretty female colleagues] are sent to my [male] boss. Messages for [a laddish colleague] are sent to leng lui and messages for my boss are sent to you!' No wonder his messages to me are always boring.

Being a conspiracy theorist, I think companies also use electronic mail and message systems to tap into our exchanges so the bosses will know exactly what was going on in their offices.

A friend told me the message system at her office crashed on the morning one of her colleagues was fired. The message system undoubtedly keeps tabs on the pulse of office gossips and politics.

The only way to stop bosses tapping into our electronic communications is to code your messages thus: 'hw r u', which is 'How are you?', and xxx which loosely translates as 'Get lost'.

Now, would you excuse me, I have to abandon this communication with you. Melrose Place is on.