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WhatsApp is killing me, one message at a time

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For those of us who grew up in the 70s, 80s and even the early 90s, the internet just wasn’t there. If we had to find some information about, let’s assume, something as mundane as the lifecycle of a butterfly or the nutritional requirements of a pregnant woman, we actually had to go to a library, search the card catalogue, go through several relevant, and not so relevant, books and then finally succeed in finding the desired information.

With the arrival of the World Wide Web, suddenly the dynamics changed dramatically. The arrival of both Yahoo and Google search engines further made life, as we know it, easier. Sometimes I shudder as I think what life was like BG (before Google).

Anyway, Napster, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Twitter further changed the way we communicated with each other and how we projected the images of our personal lives, educational triumphs and professional endeavours.

WhatsApp came along in 2009. It is widely used for instant messaging, sharing videos and audio clips in real time. WhatApp now has 600 million users, followed by China’s WeChat and Japan’s LINE.

Within the last couple of years, WhatsApp users in Pakistan have soared meteorically. A cell-phone that costs just Rs2999 comes with WhatsApp, ensuring that my master sahib (tailor), mali (gardner), maid and the driver also have it. I am not being all high and mighty but I don’t want my, for example, water delivery boy to be privy to my profile picture or status. But since I can’t do without being on their contact lists and vice versa, I have learnt to swallow that bitter pill.

What I have noticed though is that since this messaging option is virtually free, people tend to go overboard with it. WhatApp groups are created for no apparent reason or for reasons as varied as, “Help! My maid eloped with the neighbour’s driver – need a new one” to, “Xyz’s 80th surprise birthday sssssh!!!” to the “homework help” ones.

Honestly I, like most people, enjoy socialising with others, love interacting with people and also would probably be one of the first ones to help relatives and friends, but I don’t appreciate getting messages like,

“Seriously? Your maid eloped with the driver, I thought she was sleeping with the Gardner”, or

“Can we have chocolate cake with strawberries on the birthday, I hate coffee crunch” or

“Why doesn’t the teacher get the kids to do their homework in school, why are we even paying the school fee?”

Or

“”

What does that even mean? I am sure the sender doesn’t even know.

After a lot of thought I think I can safely divide WhatsApp users into the following categories:

The emoticon addict

This category will reply to any message with an emoticon. Ask them,

How are they doing?



Can we meet for coffee?



Venue?



Seriously where is this place?

And it goes on.

Then there is:

The video aficionado

You go on a group chat trying to engage in a meaningful conversation and say

“Hey! How is everyone?”

Before anyone, on the waves of the internet, comes a message from the video devotee. So you, thinking it might be something related to this person’s situation, download it but you are mistaken. It’s about some kid in Ghana, suffering from a life threatening ailment. While you are still reeling from these graphic images, you are bombarded with three more: Bilawal being ushered to safety in London, Saad Haroon accepting the second prize at the laugh factory finale and a trailer of the movie Annabelle.

Meaningful conversation? What was I thinking!

Let’s go on to:

The picture freak

I am sure all of you have that one friend who sends picture after picture of everything under the sun. The sorry part is they don’t realise which type of picture is suitable for what kind of forum. A picture which you might share with a group of school friends, you might not want to share with your family or colleagues and vice versa. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Then there is:

The joke bloke

This kind is fun to have around but should also know the limits. I don’t appreciate my phone going ‘ping’ every second, at three in the morning. Yes, you might be in New York but I have to catch my beauty sleep.

And then:

The acronym enthusiast

This type only responds with an acronym. No matter what, there is always good old LOL, BRB to YYWE to ZZZ (go figure). But the type that ticks me off the most are the ones who write “K” instead of, you guessed it, “ok”. Seriously, what do they do with all the time they save?

Then there is always the:

Gossip queen/king

They would claim to know, and in some cases do know, what’s happening to everyone around town. Sometimes I feel that they know more about me than myself! Scary isn’t it?

And finally:

The know it all

No matter what your question, they will have an answer. Whether you should trust their answer or not, well your guess is as good as mine.

Dentist? Cab? Caterer? Waxing wali?

You name it and they have a number!

As if the ‘last seen’ feature wasn’t enough (you can turn it off, though it’s a very recent thing and not many people are aware of it yet), now comes the ‘blue tick’ feature which lets the sender know that the message has been read! I don’t know how many relationships this particular feature will ruin, sigh.

Well enough said, by this I don’t mean that we should stop using WhatsApp but that we should learn to use it responsibly and respect other people’s privacy. I also hope that after this blog, I don’t find myself on a WhatsApp boycott!

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