「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


LINE or WhatsApp?

By Tan Ying Zhen


Much to the dismay of my Singaporean friends, the first app I ever downloaded was LINE, the instant messaging app that is popular in Japan but apparently not in Singapore.

"I don't even know anyone who uses LINE!" a friend exclaimed.

Actually, LINE has its share of fans in Singapore, but WhatsApp has more users worldwide than LINE. According to the most reliable statistics I could find online, the number of LINE users worldwide crossed the 100 million mark in January. On the other hand, WhatsApp claimed 200 million users as of April.

In Singapore, all my smartphone-wielding friends use WhatsApp. Some have LINE, but they seldom use it, because "everyone else is on WhatsApp." I suppose with any messaging app, what matters is who else is using it, and not your personal preferences.

I use both WhatsApp and LINE, the former with my Singaporean friends, and the latter with my Japanese friends. I prefer LINE to WhatsApp, because of its wide variety of cute stickers, adorable emoji and expressive Japanese emoticons. There are stickers featuring all sorts of characters, from classics like Doraemon to the original LINE characters. They enliven any conversation, and can at times be great substitutes for lengthy explanations.

Instead of typing, "I'm so happy I could dance the whole day away!" I tap on a sticker of Cony the rabbit jumping in delight. Rather than take ages to think of what to say to comfort a friend, I select a sticker of a hug, then try to cheer her up with words. When I use a sticker of stones raining down upon Brown, the stoic bear, the sheer comic effect makes me smile.

I've tried persuading my friends to download LINE, but most remain unconvinced. To me, the stickers are the deal-clincher. How could anyone resist such lovely illustrations? However, my friends find the stickers childish.

"Besides, isn't it troublesome to have to look through so many stickers just to find the one you want?" said a friend, as I showed him my sticker collection and the thousands more in the "sticker shop."

He had a point. A picture speaks a thousand words, but it probably takes me more time to find the right sticker, than to tap out the words I need to express myself. Have I become so reliant on stickers that I can't verbalize my emotions?

This might seem like an exaggeration, but with the prevalence of smartphones, perhaps we shouldn't underestimate their long-term effects on us. I've seen children swipe their fingers across the pages of books because they thought the books "worked" in the same way as tablets or smartphones. I hope that, for all the convenience of smartphones and messaging apps, they never replace real-life human interaction. No matter how adorable stickers are, nothing beats a real smile and hug.



The Japan Times ST: November 1, 2013

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




2018年6月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版