Electronic Valentines a cop-out: Australia Post

It's all texting, e-mailing and accessing the Internet this Valentine's Day, with vendors claiming a huge surge in traffic on the biggest day of the year for romantics. However, Australia Post reckons going virtual with your message of love is "taking the easy way out" and your best bet is the old-fashioned card or letter.

It's all texting, e-mailing and accessing the Internet this Valentine's Day, with vendors claiming a huge surge in traffic on the biggest day of the year for romantics. However, Australia Post reckons going virtual with your message of love is "taking the easy way out" and your best bet is the old-fashioned card or letter.

According to Telstra's head of consumer marketing Jenny Young, "an increasing number of romantics are embracing e-mail, SMS, picture messaging and now i-mode to win the affection of their Valentine. Last year we saw 6.3 million SMS and 13 million e-mails sent on Valentine's Day".

However Australia Post has warned the nation's romantics that taking the easy way out this year by expressing sentiments via e-mail or SMS may well backfire. Spokesperson Libby Collett said: "While sending an SMS or e-mail may be a fast alternative, it doesn't have the same impact as a card you chose personally with a hand-written message". According to Collett, a card or letter with a personal note was "cheaper and more likely to be valued, particularly by women, than [even] the traditional bunch of flowers or box of chocolates".

And according to Tony Wilkinson, Microsoft Australia's Office Product Manager, although people are relying more heavily on email for personal communication, this can bring its own set of problems. -Double check the email address before sending your flirty message this Valentine's Day," advises Wilkingson. -Seven per cent of our respondents indicated they had sent a raunchy email to the wrong person by mistake."

Although the traditional hand-written note has proven itself over the years, the idea that women are more likely to value a hand-written romantic letter has been shot down by a recent Newspoll survey commissioned by The Heart Foundation. The survey showed that "women are more likely to send an SMS message while men are more likely to express themselves with gifts, flowers or a romantic night out".

Controversially, the 'Heart-to-Heart Report' also claimed that "Aussie men are more romantic than Aussie women," with 58 percent of men (aged 18+) saying that they will give or send their partner a Valentine's Day greeting, compared with 41 percent of women. Furthermore, despite the easy availability of mobile and Internet technology, 44 percent of respondents said that they won't share a Valentine's day wish with anyone. Young lovers also seemed to be more enthusiastic about the celebration, with 90 per cent of those aged 18-24 planning to celebrate the day, compared with only 45 percent of those over 50.

But the Valentine's Day phenomenon doesn't simply extend to existing couples or would-be lovers with a partner in mind; those searching for love online are also much more likely to look for new prospects in this most romantic time of the year. Telstra's Young said: "[Internet measurement agency] Hitwise data shows that Australian visits to online dating Web sites have increased by approximately 22 percent over the past year," with February 15 being the centre of the peak period.

Ngaire Moyes, spokesperson for Ninemsn, which has partnered with Match.com to provide Ninemsn Personals, said: "Online dating has been a big success for people who don't feel comfortable approaching potential partners at a pub, club or party. It's dating in a controlled environment where singles might only be a click away from finding the one".

Australia's largest online dating agency RSVP has more than 510,000 active members alone and has seen more than 863 weddings since its launch on Valentine's day in 1997. RSVP marketing manager Melanie Bowman said of the Internet dating phenomenon that it "is so fast growing as it puts people in control of their dating destiny. Members decide who to contact, who to meet up with, and when -- all from the cosy convenience of their home or office".

However online dating may be forced to move out of business hours amid recent news that Australian-based Exinda Networks has released a system that allows employers to monitor their employees' Internet use and bill them for non-work related access.

And trying to ease your loneliness can even prove fatal: The Telegraph in London is reporting that a worldwide search is under way for 31 members of a Valentine's day mass suicide pact. The search commenced after US police arrested a man for masterminding the plan over the Internet.

The man, Gerald Krien, allegedly launched an Internet chatroom named Suicide Ideology, designed to convince so-called 'lonely hearts' of the wisdom of committing suicide on Valentine's Day in solidarity with each other. Psychologists have highlighted for some time the 'high risk' nature of the Christmas through Valentine's Day period, as those left out by community celebrations fall victim to loneliness and depression.

Will you be using e-mail, instant messenger or text message to deliver your heart-felt message to your partner? Or will you be going the old fashioned route with card and hand-written message? Is the whole hoo-ha of Valentines' Day yet another crass commercial celebration by which vendors seek to beef up their revenues? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au and let us know.

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