Writes Jeremy Wagstaff (WSJ):
SMS is a great way to communicate without actually committing to anything. You can SMS someone you barely know, safe in the knowledge that while it opens up all sorts of possibilities for flirting/business/gossip/extending your circle, the social cost is low. As Rich Ling, a sociologist in Norway, points out, sending a message like ‘How ya doing?’ initiates contact and invites a response, but isn’t half as hairy as walking across a dance floor/pub/funeral parlour and striking up a conversation with a hot stranger. Similarly, the recipient has plenty of wiggle-room, ranging from ignoring the message entirely — claiming, if it ever came to court, that they never received the thing — or taking their time to phrase a suitable reply.
In general, the 160-character limit is a blessing, giving the texter room only for a couple of pithy sentences, perhaps a joke and a disarming smiley character. As social observer Sadie Plant has pointed out, this has a liberating effect since it encourages SMS users to be candid, frank and informal, breaking ice without risk of embarrassment.
Indeed, there’s an intimacy to SMSing that other forms lack. Despite it being a mobile medium, there’s little chance of eavesdropping as both sender and recipient can exercise a good deal of control over where and when their dialogue takes place.
It’s also a great way to sustain links with close friends, relatives, spouses, colleagues and others that share a shorthand. Communiques such as “I’m 10 minutes late/Lunch?/Order more beer” don’t really require a voice call, and fit the SMS format neatly. Indeed, now that cross-border SMSing is the norm, friendships can be maintained on the cheap.