You must have gathered from the headline what this week’s rant is all about. Zara phone se nazrein bahar nikaalo and listen to me. It all started with some dolt, who was not even in my phone’s contact list, making a whatsapp group called ‘Rich people’ and randomly adding over a hundred unsuspecting people, including yours truly, into it. Dekho ek toh this unsolicited addition in a group of strangers is, in itself, a pakaau thing, and then to put salt on the wounds, this ‘rich people’ tag made me want to relook at my bank statement and burst into tears. It took close to five minutes for all the rich people to curse the admin and exit the group, but this gross invasion of privacy set me thinking. The next day, Abhishek Duggal, a brilliantly creative colleague from my publication’s radio division got talking to me on the same subject. ‘Please write about the stress of these whatsapp groups. Koi bhi bana leta hai, and adds you without permission. And then one is subjected to a whole lot of needless messages and forwarded stuff. Sometimes you can’t even leave it because the group is formed by bosses, or worse yet, relatives.’ Now that, as pointed by Abhishek, is a double whammy. Rishtedaar aur bosses are anyway the other name for stress. Upar se this technology-induced siyaapa. Let’s look at how these whatsapp groups are taking our peace away.
1. Adding without permission: This whole thing of anyone randomly being able to add you to a group without you wanting or allowing for it, gets on my nerves. Of course you can report spam or block someone if you wish, but first you need to take the trouble of ‘exiting’ from something you didn’t wish to enter in the first place. How weird is that!
2. Meaningless forwards: Now, don’t get me wrong here. I completely understand the benefit and convenience of group chats, and I know that some people get a lot of enjoyment in sharing interesting jokes, inspirational messages, photos or videos in whatsapp groups. But what’s with the constant, non-stop obsession to share any random thing in a group. It may be a personal opinion but I don’t quite get the thrill in someone posting a ‘good morning’ message with a flower basket thrown about and twenty seven people responding to it with the weirdest of emoticons! At times you can sense the obligation in people sending multiple thumbs up to a joke because everyone else is doing so. I know that some Steve Jobbs ka bhatija is itching to tell me that it is technically possible to switch off notifications etc. I know all that yaar! But my point is about the forced need for people to keep sharing such things in the first place, to keep the group active.
3. Mis-information: While you may be feeling very empowered or informed about getting a piece of news on multiple whatsapp groups, do know that studies have indicated these groups to be a huge platform for spreading false, biased, provocative or panic-causing news or information. Without bothering to think whether some bit of information is authentic and based on facts, we take no time in forwarding it to hundreds, adding to the chaos.
Being connected to your old classmates, long forgotten relatives, and wish-you-could-forget them colleagues etc may be a great way to be social, but trust me, this expectation of being connected 24/7 can cost you in terms of mental and physical peace. Since the capacity and inclination to be party to constant online chitter chatter is a very individual thing and varies between people, do take a moment to understand your own threshold. It may not be a bad idea to give your itching fingers a break, and indulge in some real, face to face conversations with people you genuinely like. You are not likely to regret it.
Sonal Kalra wants to start a group called ‘poor people’ and add all her friends into it. That could be the end of all unsolicited whatsapp gyan. Mail her at email@example.com or facebook.com/sonal.kalra. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra