I’ve been toying with the idea of this post for quite some time now. I wasn’t sure I could come up with a big enough list. I didn’t want to offend the Whatsapp folks I know of. But then I realized I’d exited most Whatsapp groups that I was part of. Also I don’t expect the serious Whatsapp-y folks to have enough patience or attention span to read this 900 word article. A video or meme may have stood out but not this one. So here goes. Let me know your experience with Whatsapp. I’d love to hear.
- We never remembered birthdays and anniversaries of cousins, cousin’s wives, their kids, uncles and aunts. And rightfully we did not wish all these people either. Things seemed real. With Whatsapp when all these extended family members are cloistered together in a Whatsapp group just a tap away, every day is somebody’s birthday, somebody’s anniversary. The cousin’s wife or brother or sister gives the cue usually by changing the title of the group. Changing the title is the red carpet treatment of Whatsapp. Everybody else follows suit with their own “HBD” wishes. The more cake, balloon and confetti emojis you add, the greater your effort and therefore the heartier your wishes. Easy, quick and empty. Not wishing would make you a mean person. Vaguely texting a bunch of emojis would make you a vacuous but sensitive person. Choose.
- There are the groups within groups. This is going to look like an analytical reasoning problem in CAT paper, but bear with me. There is a Whatsapp group (group 1) that has A, B, C, D and E. There is another group (group 2) that has just A, B and C. D and E don’t know about this group. Another group (group 3) has A, B, E and F. C and D don’t know about this group. A also talks to D one on one. A talks to everyone within the group and outside too. People need to keep track of the group overlaps when forwarding messages. You don’t want to send what was sent in group 1 to group 2 or group 3 because some of them have already seen it. You need to look up to see which group you’re texting in to make sure you’re not talking about D in the group that has D. Not easy.
- There are the office groups where people share carefully selected intelligent babble – economy, business or sports related news and clever jokes that aren’t really jokes and pictures of team dinners.
- The true Whatsapp revolution is in the homework space. Every mom has one Whatsapp group for each child’s class plus more for dance, music, chess & art classes. Moms share class notes, discuss the syllabus, critique the teachers and fret about the load on the poor kids while the kids watch “Oggy and the cocokroaches”. These groups are buzzing all evening. They go into hyperactive mode during tests and exams. They serve as a constant reminder as to what a lazy, unapprised, clueless mom you are.
- Like Tele-shopping, there are a couple of Whatsapp shopping groups in everyone’s phone where the admin (a distant friend, a mom from school/class, someone you don’t remember meeting but have given your number to) spams you with hundreds of photos and kurtas, sarees or navrathri favours every day. They have hogged your phone memory and your phone does not let you shoot a video of the poori puffing up (that maybe just me).
- There’s usually a gym group that is started with very high aspirations but soon falls silent. You vow to motivate each other and coordinate the gym workouts, but manage to visit the same gym without ever seeing each other.
- With some people you have a strict one way texting policy. You send pictures, videos of the kids to your mother-in-law priding yourself for being sensitive and thoughtful. You are actually trying to compensate for not taking the kids over as often, for not inviting her for something. The mother in law is thinking exactly the same thing when she sees the pictures.
- Sometimes you have to not only send the picture through Whatsapp but you’ll also need to open it on your recipient’s phone and explain. This happens usually with mothers and fathers who were gifted (thrusted with) a smartphone by the children expecting them to converse on Whatsapp, order groceries online and book ola cabs. My mother uses her phone to check the time and not much else. However this isn’t true for mothers who are the mamiyaars (the mothers-in-law). They are somehow always savvier.
- By the way, who are the authors behind stuff like –“Never eat banana and egg together ever”, “Story of someone who was billed 12 rupees extra and caught the restaurant red-handed”, “God wants you to send this text to 20 people now. Send right now.” and all those lame wife jokes? I find that Whatsapp is the easiest, fastest way to propagate nonsense content, to mis-inform and mislead people. Being as handy as it is, it is many people’s main source of news (even before the newspaper), health & wellness advice, motivation and political standpoints. That is scary shit.
- In men only groups, men share porn videos and adult jokes and animatedly discuss cars & bikes they don’t possess and world politics. In many women only groups, women share pictures of their biryani, their cupcakes, their pooja room during festivals and special occasions, kids’ achievements, party pictures, holiday pictures and motivational messages. Men’s groups expect nothing, seek no approval and do not care about being nice. Women’s groups have carried over the real world pressures into the Whatsapp world as well: to seek approval, to be perfect, to be nice, to be polite.