There is no denying that WhatsApp has connected us on a global scale and revolutionised the way we communicate. The instant messaging platform allows us to tap into social events we may have not been able to. During last year’s family Christmas gathering, my brother in law in France had a very long video chat with all of us, each person passing the phone to the next among us.
WhatsApp has also managed to break the age barrier, something that Facebook failed to do by itself. Most of us made for the woods when our parents showed up on our friend request lists. WhatsApp gives us the freedom to be civil in a family group while sharing peaches and eggplants as shorthand to signify our sexual desires. This is something else the messaging platform managed to change, bringing the emoji into the fore-front of communication that is universally understood.
Another significant personality trait WhatsApp has given us is self-confidence. In-person, a lot of people tend to be reserved but snug in their blankets, they can say anything to people in groups who are often strangers.
The messaging platform has graduated from a simple app to a culture, with people spending their first waking moments going through group chats they missed while asleep. With every positive comes a negative, however.
The first I have personally noticed is the inability by school students to form proper sentences using correctly spelt words. Shorthand and emojis have become commonplace and people have lapped it up, given the complexity of English spelling rules. The younger, school-going generation has found it quite challenging to practice proper English language skills. This is not helped by the fact that most of their down-time is now spent on WhatsApp. When we were younger, we had to join the public library and spend our free time reading novels which helped us improve our language skills (Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, those were fun times).
Some people simply give the excuse, “English is not our mother language” but I refuse to accept this. In an ever-growing global community, the agreed upon standard is English and it is what we use to communicate when doing business with people around the world. With this comes a need to convey our needs clearly and concisely in a language that other people will not struggle to understand.
Typing a WhatsApp message has become convenient and with a few clicks, it can be forwarded to several groups being read by thousands. Businesses have been quick to use this platform to send everything from job opening adverts to product marketing. I hang out in groups full of stereotypical nerds and when a message without much effort behind it is posted, we label it as a red flag. One can compare this to the tradition of custom domain emails, which are regarded as more professional.
We expect some snazzy graphics to go with job posts and product/service ads to convey a touch of professionalism and effort. The graphic also gives a chance to provide more information without typing out a long message. This will prevent the usual back and forth that follows as people try to get more information from you.
I expect to catch some rounds for this but here goes: Hey, Hi and Hello are not a proper way to begin a conversation with a stranger. To me personally, they are the equivalent of effortless email spam. A phone call is more expensive and a WhatsApp message has become a more convenient and cheaper form of communication. This does not mean you have to make a person first respond to a string of spammy Heys before you say what you wish to.
“Hi my name is Jane, I am a telemarketer and would like to talk to you about our awesome fidget-spinners that you can also use for massage therapy.” That was not so hard. I now know who the stranger is and I will now proceed to chat with Jane and buy fidget-spinners that I will never use in the hope of scoring a date with Jane.
When we are with friends and colleagues, we chat with family and talk less with those near us. When we get home, we start chatting with our friends and talk less with our family. This has led to people spending their waking hours with their eyes glued to their phones, catching up with someone else all the time. This is leading to a rot in relationships.
The blue tick is the worst feature WhatsApp ever introduced and it is also the only feature I have disabled. When you send a message to someone and they get a blue tick, certain anxiety ensues when they do not respond within the time that you perceive as normal. When you see the online or is typing which then goes away without a message coming in, you go into full paranoia. What is he/she doing that is more important than texting me?
A WhatsApp message has no tone. Yes, you can throw in an emoji to signify a joke, but often we leave emojis out to disastrous effect. The person on the other end applies their own tone to a message and this often leads to prolonged and unnecessary arguments. We forget to simply apply the logic that our loved ones will not intentionally utter words meant to emotionally hurt us.
Well, that’s it, a short talk about the negative social effects of WhatsApp that you will undoubtedly not care about. Now put your phone down and talk to the person next to you. Wait, pick up your phone and read another Techzim article, please.
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