WhatsApp is killing me, one message at a time

Published: November 11, 2014

With the arrival of the world wide web, suddenly the dynamics dramatically changed. PHOTO: REUTERS

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!

Sarah Allawala

Sarah Allawala

A dietitian by education, a writer and an entrepreneur by choice. She tweets as @AllawalaSarah (twitter.com/AllawalaSarah)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Queen

    Good, Messages from video aficionados can be really irritating sometimes :) There are religious aficionados as well who love to send you religious messages urging you to pass them on to 25 other people or you will go to Hell. I mean seriously ….Recommend

  • Jaffer

    If you’re being inundated with group messages, you can easily mute messages from groups and contacts. Just open a conversation in Whatsapp and tap the options menu to see the ‘Mute’ option.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I dont get the point of all this? Perhaps I am a big hermit , but whats your point exactly? are you saying that we should stop messing around on watsapp and treat social media like a school classroom?
    no jokes, sit up straight, No vids, only business talk, no gossip?tbh this is typical attitude of someone who is always Mr/Mrs “glass half empty”. If you don’t like watsapp so much why don’t you just uninstall it? If you don’t like a group why don’t you just leave it ? there is no one forcing you to join their groups. if you don’t like a person why don’t you just tell them. I did not like your blog and I am telling you, I am not going all the way to ET’s head office with a grenade launcher and a mini-gun to demand that they take off your blog.
    Don’t you realize that most of our countrymen don’t have much catharsis? msgs on watsapp and sending jokes etc is pretty much all the fun they can have. Please don’t be a killjoy , live and let live.
    One more thing, the blue tick is something which has been present in other major social media services for a long long time, for example your Fb msgs show a tick when they have been read and they even show the time.Recommend

  • http://www.sepia-paper.deviantart.com Muhammed Waqar Younis

    the Great “Museebats” of being rich…Recommend

  • http://memonammar.blogspot.com Ammar

    Are you for or against; your column is too mashed up. As far as, last seen is concerned it is still working, the ticks won’t appear “blue” if you’ve customized the setting. Well, madam, I am product of 87, played “Gilli Danad, Cricket, etc.” and “Pac man, mario bros., street fighter, etc.” I enjoyed all of it. My point is don’t compare for proving which era was good. Present is good too. =)Recommend

  • Parvez

    A toilet bowl….a flower…a sad face….and a pill…..all one needs is an active imagination and you have the subject of your next ‘ Poetic License ‘ piece.
    I don’t really agree with you…….but I loved the way you wrote that.Recommend

  • aman

    This is what you call “Running outta thoughts for writing an article but have to do it anyway” kinda Article. Point less !!!Recommend

  • an indian

    Hahahaha …Recommend

  • Natasha

    Firstly, if you are so much against whatsapp, you can just delete it. You can also mute group or you know, just delete them if they cause such a problem to you. Thirdly, there is this feature called hide your profile picture; just because you don’t want people to see your profile does not mean they do not deserve to be on whatsapp. And lastly, you should be grateful that there is a messaging application that lets you connect to anyone in the world, free of charge, and is fast and secure, instead of whining about everything that is an inconvenience for you. If you can not be grateful enough for this, you can just uninstall it and let’s see how that works out for you.Recommend

  • concerned citizen

    Wow I’ve never read something this useless in my life you might want to hang with a crowd of your choosing rather than complaining about it. I mean I complain about everything and I’m from the early 80’s and even this seems like a joke. Get it together and write something useful like may be about extremism towards women and how men roam free without a question or Pakistan having no control over this country there is absolutely no security for the minorities this is not why Pakistan was made. Get people talking and debating on something is actually becoming more of a problem today. Or may be just get another job. We want to see people speak up for real issues and tribune create that dialogue. If you want to write something this silly write it on your own personal blog. I can’t believe my blog was not published here but this was. WowRecommend

  • Biz

    you can block people, remove them , the choice is yours , stop whining.Recommend

  • Maybe..

    The story maybe that the person has indigestion,is unwell,needs medicines & a rose-scented airfreshner in the bathroom : PRecommend

  • Sadaf Shaikh Jafri

    I enjoyed the article. It stands very true. It is no way an article against whatsapp but the fact how the essence of conversation is dying. These apps play a major role in uniting people and grow our social life’s. But like the article mentioned that the platform is senselessly used and kills the joy of conversation. Recommend

  • Tuba Naz

    God knows how many times I have uninstall whatsapp, because quitting group chats just don’t work with the people around me. and when I finally had some peace in my life by turning off the ‘last seen’ feature, there came the ‘blue ticks’… so depressing.Recommend

  • Edward Smith

    Binfer instant messaging is secure and encrypted. It is completely free. http://www.binfer.com Recommend

  • Prakash

    WhatsApp I will survive, Blogs I might not!Recommend

  • Concerned Blogger

    But still u chose to post such a long comment on a what u called “USELESS” blog..Recommend

  • Gp65

    If you are in a grop where some people are in New York and you are in Pakistan, they are bound o send a message when it is night ime for you just as ou probably do for them.

    Turn the notification of in the setting at night and you will not be disturbed. For messages that you do not like, press the delete button. You must have figured out which person sends videos that you find useless. Just delete them before watching – end of aggravation for you.

    You get a free messaging serice for even international talk and all you want to do is whine. Recommend

  • hari mirch

    nice ,,, all i can do is to laugh after reading the blog. Yes the blue ticks are quiet irritating sometimes wen msgs are not responded spcly from dear ones. The abbreviations seem quiet irritating wen we want a long conversation ,, :p i disagree with u coz emoticons are time consuming replies and they deliver the holistic feelings of us ,,, U talked abt gardner and other ppl ,,, i think u know wtsapp privacy policy “dont save an unwanted number save such numbers in a diary” so none of the unwanted personality could see your profile pic this is what i do :)) (keep that diary in your bag).
    GRoup Chats are always interesting i remember most of my cousins living abroad if miss a party or marriage ceremony i m the one who update them wd videos and pictures and we feel eachothers presence. I couldnt attend the engagement ceremony of my buddy coz i was tooooooooooooooo busy but i was updated through pics and videos. We dont need to be too much addictive rather busy ppl like me can be in touch with frnds and relatives through such apps and can enjoy the moment wen we are idle.Recommend

  • hari mirch

    hahahahaha best reply :DRecommend

  • hari mirch

    and here it goes the best poetic license for best imagination :)Recommend

  • Tahira

    Very well written article ! Enjoyed reading it and also can relate to many issues mentioned in it. And as the writer clearly pointed out im not boycotting watsap either. It is due to the many advantages that come with it. It surely is a useful app. The article itself was full of the humour one looks for in our otherwise busy lives. Good job sSarah allawala!Recommend

  • ziddi

    lolz or it may be an ill person found a tablet as he was sick,went to toilet felt better,on return felt as light as a rose :p hahahahaRecommend

  • ziddi

    ooops somebody has got aggressive…. u shouldn’t be …elders do advise kids let her do as well :p
    @ writer ur blog is really funny sometimes yes emoticons and blue tick are irritating sometimes but i like these aps specially wen mobile phone signals are blocked and wifi is available i m still in touch with my cousins family frnss living abroad :) m a busy person but wen i m luckily idle i like to read my unread msgs :)Recommend