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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 00:42 GMT
Love is in the airwaves
Text of first Valentine's Day message
First Valentine's Day message was sent in 1477
Love is in the airwaves as mobile phone operators prepare for the bumper Valentine's Day.

Mobile firm Orange predicts that 25 million text messages and 20,000 picture messages will be sent over its network on 14 February.

Britain's other operators are expecting an equally busy day. Together they look likely to beat the 57 million messages sent on Valentine's Day in 2002.

Electronic Valentine messages sent via phone or e-mail are now vastly outnumbering the 13 million who opt for the more traditional method of posting a card.

Mobile relationship

No matter how many, or how few, Valentine messages you want to send this year, technology can help reach your heart's desire.

For lovers who like to keep their options open Orange is offering an anonymous messaging service, which allows Romeos to text up to 20 different lovers. Other UK operators offer similar services.

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Sample Text-me love poem
The Text-Me service will even send amorous verses penned by a poet to the object of your affection.

Users will be able to send Valentine picture messages available on the Vodafone site or even post an online message to their loved one which will appear on a giant screen in Piccadilly Circus, above the statue of Eros.

"The discrete nature of text means you are never restricted from having private communication while in a public place," said David Taylor, Orange's Vice-President of Marketing.

"Mobile phones have an important part to play in people's relationships," he added.

It is not just phone firms that are keen to exploit the international day of flirting.

Online portal Yahoo said that it saw a 48% increase in the number of electronic Valentine greetings sent in 2002. It expects a similar rise this year.

Yahoo is also setting up an anonymous mail service that lets people send messages to prospective partners without divulging their identity.

A survey by Yahoo found that 29% of those questioned are intending to use e-mail or text to send Valentine's Day messages.

Heart in your hand

But Yahoo warns people to be wary of any messages they receive because the missive declaring undying love could well be a prank by a friend. It estimates that 30% of messages are sent as a joke.

Statue of Eros, BBC
Messages to appear in the shadow of Eros
For some people electronic flirting is becoming something of a habit.

A survey carried out for MSN found that 21% of those questioned say they regularly flirt with people online even though they themselves are in an ongoing relationship.

The study also found that many people now prefer to give out e-mail addresses rather than phone numbers when we want someone to contact us again, possibly because e-mail infidelity is easier to conceal.

The MSN survey found that women are more likely to play hard to get, even electronically and are twice as likely to wait a month before starting an e-lationship.

More than a third of people are a month into a relationship before passing on instant messaging or personal e-mail addresses. A racy 29% give out intimate contact details on the first date.

But all this e-ffection is not without its cost.

A survey carried out for small business service firm Open Orchard found that the effort people put into sending amorous text messages, buying cards, arranging romantic dinners with a loved one and seeking out gifts is estimated to cost British business more than 92m.

See also:

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