Time and place for texting

Published Mar 26, 2014 at 5:53 am (Updated Mar 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm)

Many conveniences came with the advent of the text message – the ability to convey a quick message without actually having to take the time to, for example, dial a number, let the phone ring, wait for the other person to answer, exchange hellos, say the call’s intended purpose: “I’ll be late,” wait for the response, “OK,” and finally, exchange goodbyes.

It enables folks in loud environments to communicate without speaking. As it has become a preferred method of communication for today’s teenagers, it keeps parents more in touch now than perhaps ever.

Yes, the text message is a wonderful thing. Except when you receive a text saying that your father, mother, sister, brother, spouse, child, et cetera, is dead.

That’s exactly what happened in the case of the family members of those who were on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which had been missing since March 8. On March 24, after more than two weeks and countless theories, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that new satellite data had revealed that the flight ended somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean and that there were no survivors.

Malaysian Airlines sent this text message: “Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence that suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.”

We can only imagine the horror and hurt that the recipients of that text message had to have felt. It is commonplace that news of that magnitude is delivered in person, and if it just isn’t possible to do it in person, then a phone call is warranted.

The airline claims that the text message was used as an “additional means of communication,” and that most families were notified in person or via phone in advance of the press conference announcing the news. Most.

This entire situation has been baffling, the Malaysian government seemed to be less than transparent when it came to information and cooperation, and pieces of the puzzle just didn’t seem to add up. To top it off with an insensitive text message is just not acceptable.

We can only hope that this serves as a lesson on how not to communicate such news and that it doesn’t happen again in the future.

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