Just checked my WhatsApp for the 10th time in the space of about a minute. Wow I think I am seriously addicted. It’s funny because when it comes to social media, we don’t really consider WhatsApp to be part of it. It’s still considered a messaging app. In reality it’s a social media platform like all the others but somehow this one has crept into our life so much more than all the others put together. For me I think it’s the one app that really impacts the most on my life, more so since COVID-19 times.
WhatsApp has gradually made me stop most, if not all telephone conversations. But I actually feel more connected to more people. Although I am thinking are those connections or relationships even real? Do they have the same meaning or depth as a normal face to face conversation or telephone call? WhatsApp has let me connect with friends and relatives that I would never have kept in touch with. Conversations with cousins, relatives and friends living on the other side of the world are now the norm.
But if I dig a little deeper, are these conversations genuine? Or like with other social media, people just show the side of themselves that they want us to see. A text message can be interpreted in so many ways but a voice at the end of a line can be pretty clear with its emotions. So, the friend who is active in a group with 30 or 40 people, can easily show themselves in a certain light. Yet their actual life could be completely different. WhatsApp could be their escape from real life. They could be hiding so much or even using it to showcase a different side of themselves.
For some mums I know, WhatsApp is the only connection they have to the world. If they don’t have access to other social media (yes, there are still those whose husbands don’t allow them to use it) then WhatsApp is their only connection. It’s opened up a world for so many. The different groups and discussions that go on are sometimes real eye openers. There are the groups which discuss faith topics or get people to collectively pray together. They are such a support for so many. Although, sometimes they can become like playgrounds with petty squabbles.
The funny thing is, it really exposes people’s characters. As an admin of several WhatsApp groups, I often deal with really hilarious situations. There are those who want to be part of the group but will always stay silent and never comment on anything. Even if something really bothers them, then they will DM privately. The trigger-happy ones, that’s what I like to call them, are the ones that will forward anything and everything. They probably haven’t even watched the clip but will forward it anyway.
Then there is the know it all, who will reply to any comment within seconds and have at least 5 reasons why the comment is wrong. This is then replied to by the religious one, who will say, it’s all haram anyway and we are all doomed. This will be swiftly followed by the one who has no idea what’s going and will say, what even is that, exposing their total lack of knowledge about the matter.
It doesn’t end there, with some who DM me and say that’s it, I am leaving the group because of what she said, funnily enough, they never do. I even once had two group members, asking me to remove the other from the group. It sounds funny but it really wasn’t and my negotiating skills had to be really stretched to keep both in the group without upsetting either.
Recently, one group discussed meeting up for a coffee morning. One member commented that she never met up with people outside her house. The total silence on the group was deafening. I quickly changed the subject but had some texting me, saying, is she serious! Such conversations are real eye openers. Sometimes you have no idea how someone lives and what’s normal to one, isn’t the norm to another.
In the last year, residents, who don’t know each other at all, have started WhatsApp groups for their area to let people know what’s happening. I felt safer in my area before I joined my local resident group. They were sending messages about which house was burgled and on which road someone was mugged! Really, for me, ignorance was bliss and I didn’t want to know.
It goes without saying that there are those groups that we find ourselves in and too embarrassed to leave for fear of offending the others. But at the same time, we actually secretly don’t want to leave, for fear of missing something, more commonly known as FOMO. I actually have one group myself which I don’t even read because there are so many comments but I dare not leave because it’s usually the group that death announcements show up first in, crazy I know.
All things considered this all leaves us to decide, has WhatsApp taken away our emotional connections with people? Because asking someone on the phone if they are ok would quickly show how that person is feeling. I wouldn’t get that emotion from a text message, right? Just hearing someone’s voice would give a thousand clues about how they felt that day. I know it’s our changing world and this is progress but at what cost to our emotional wellbeing and how real are our connections in this day and age actually are? I leave it to you to ponder on and would love to hear what you think.