Shut the WhatsTAP

The three wise monkeys photo © Copyright Rachit Tank

Since the dawn of the Internet, we’ve always had some chat program that takes the limelight and everyone, that is everyone you know uses it, and considers it divine.

A few chat programs from yesteryears come to mind: mirc, icq, msn messenger, aim, yahoo messenger – these were some of the most used and almost revolutionary chat platforms at the time. Email was the second best to them.

This was the late 90s and we had almost nothing to ‘share’ or ‘forward’, not the way you know these terms today. We had cosy, easy to remember URLs like yahoo.com and altavista.com to remember and use. Anything else was a URL too, and we used to copy and paste these into our chat and email programs. Other forms of sharing were simply copying and pasting the text or photograph of interest and we were done. Chat was simply chat, it was one on one conversation, and it was done using a computer.

With the advent of the ‘phone in your hand’, the mobile phone or known popularly to some as the cellphone, we were introduced to another form of chat, text-ing. This suffered from the difficulty of typing messages, yet we all became accustomed to text on our Ericsson and Nokia phones at the speed of light. This wasn’t a chat platform per-say. It was pay-by-the-text, and it faded away slowly.

The years that followed saw another chat platform rise to stardom. The Blackberry. I never owned a Blackberry, it never appealed to me personally, but every person in business thought a Blackberry was the best tool for typing quick (because of its keyboard) and for BBM, BlackBerry Messenger. Many a business deals were made on the new platform. People considered acquiring a prospect’s BBM pin, a feat.

The iPhone in 2007 changed everything. It changed the way we interacted with a computer. Apple didn’t introduce a chat service out of the box. Had they, their chat platform iMessage (2011) or Messages (today) would have ruled the world.

February 24, 2009 changed chat for ever. WhatsApp came to the iPhone and the rest of its story is history and worth reading. As the iPhone grew, WhatApp grew as a platform for sharing status messages, photos, videos, voice and what have you. It became and remains the largest chat platform on planet Earth. One that was acquired by Facebook for some US$19 billion green.

I have never liked WhatsApp, there’s something about it that I despise, and I can’t figure that out either. It’s maybe it’s antisocial in some ways, it’s maybe everyone is so gaga about it or it’s maybe it’s just too well made, it’s too perfect to let people into our lives, in so many unwelcome ways.

Having said that, my current WhatsApp setup is this:

  • I have WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business, both running on my iPhone (it’s possible to set this up, even if you have a single sim iPhone).
  • I use WhatsApp for personal use and WhatsApp Business for business use.
  • WhatsApp is limited for use with my friends (including my better half). No family or extended family.
  • WhatsApp Business is for all our customers and I rather adopted this app proactively. It offers some nice features over WhatsApp.
  • As official family policy (chuckle!) we don’t allow WhatsApp on our kids’ iPhones (and employ strict Parental Controls too! WINK!!).

I do feel the main reason why I don’t like or at times ‘hate’ WhatsApp is the constant stream of unwanted, uninteresting, unintelligible, unwelcome ‘forwards’ that run like a loose tap, an almost drain on our behavior and intellect.

Having faced this menace, I have caged myself into the above way of WhatApp-ing. There are very few people who can get to me (the personal number I use for WhatsApp is known only to a handful) and the ones who have access to me on personal WhatsApp, were told and made to understand the following:

  • No groups for whatsoever godforsaken reason.
  • You are welcome to chat and share photos of interesting stuff you do. Family photos are welcome and loved.
  • Audio messages are super welcome, it makes me feel happier than chat.
  • No senseless forwarding. No jokes, no videos, no anything. If I see the text ‘forwarded’ besides your message, you will be made to regret that action. Many have! BIG GRIN!!
  • If something is really important – tell me, I’m interested in knowing – so any input on topics of interest is welcome. Any news that excites you or troubles you, is not.
  • I seldom read Status messages, and I have posted a few at times. I don’t plan to post status messages anymore.

I have strong views on the culture of the ‘forward’. It’s intrusive, it’s abusive at times and it outright ignores the fact that the other person on the line is a human being. Humans can have good and bad times, and being human requires social contact, not social nonsense.

The result is that WhatsApp is over-crowded with hundreds of unwanted groups and people, and thousands of unread messages. It’s not chat any more, it’s a tap, a never ending tap of nonsense that aims to flow perpetually, unchecked, uncontrolled.

Shut the WhatsTAP. You’ll live a happier life.