Whatsapp Groups are social technology.
And, as with all technologies, first we design it.
And then it redesigns us.
What’s the best metaphor for Whatsapp Groups, by the way? Are they shared spaces, or conference tables, or temporary, text-driven walkie-talkies?
Or maybe there’s no meta-phfor them. Maybe they’re rudimentary pieces of telepathic technology; ancestors to the unborn gadgets that will, one day, allow us to read each others’ minds.
Why do some Whatsapp Groups live, while others die?
Why are most people desperate, insistent, even, on exiting their Whatsapp Groups the instant those little digital rooms have served their purpose?
I guess it’s because Whatsapp Groups are communities. And just like all communities, they thrive when they have leaders (elected or unspoken) who fill them with purpose, and encourage the sharing of information of love and affection, and enforce the rules (whether unwritten or formalised).
But not too many rules. Enough, but not too many. And one of the rules is: don’t take anything said here too seriously.
Whatsapp Groups die when their members feel there is no point, there is no purpose, in living in those communities anymore. This is Donald Trump’s ideology, by the way.
Whatsapp Groups survive when the purpose evolves as people do. Squads change. Relationships erode. People leave town and move to other, more exciting parts of the world.
And yet leaving a Whatsapp Group you’ve been invited to — especially one that’s been around for a while, it feels like betrayal. You’d rather just mute the damn thing than leave it.
I tried to leave our Fantasy Football League Whatsapp Group in its second year, when I decided to stop wasting my time on Fantasy Football and start wasting it on blogging.
Nikhil response? I’d rather you were dead in real life than alive in real life and not in the group.
Will our Whatsapp Groups outlive us all? I know our Facebook pages will.
Some basic Whatsapp Group etiquette from Me, the Author of this Blog.
- Always reply. “No, I can’t make it” is always better than silence. Silence erodes confidence in the community. It makes it look like no one’s listening.
- Never hit on someone you’re in a Whatsapp Group with, in The Group, in public. It’s awkward.
- More is less. You’re better off penning a heartfelt rant, or extended drunken word binge, or multi-photo story, than one idle off-hand comment. No one gives a shit about what’s in your head. That’s what Twitter’s for.
Birthdays. Everyone leaves Whatsapp Groups the day after birthdays.
Or maybe the day after the day after, just so you have all the images, and the post-party banter, and you can trawl through them and see if there’s a nugget in there, a piece of content, a joke that you can upcycle to Facebook — a status, or even — here’s where it gets exciting — a new profile picture!!!
I’m still searching for the right metaphor. Maybe Whatsapp Groups are the building blocks of our digi-socio-ecosystem. They’re the ocean. Not the whole ocean. Self-contained patches of sea. The content cycling through them, the content is plankton: the plankton of our social identity.
And we, us, we’re blue whales, ingesting it all, sifting through the useless water for social krill. We spend our days on Whatsapp, scouring the oceans for information, interpreted by our brains as social nutrition. Whatsapp Groups nourish us socially, and humorously, or occasionally even emotionally.
And sometimes they even nourish us spiritually (Not in the religious sense, but in the sense that our spirits can be uplifted by these pieces of information).
And maybe the spiritual bits, those pieces of information and code manifested as text and images and emoji, are better described as oysters — inside them pearls, pearls of social gratification, pearls of social identity that can then be pulled out of the ocean’s murky depth and polished and burnished and proudly displayed into that museum of online identity, the permanent passport that is one’s Facebook Page.
Me, personally, I’m a big fan of never leaving Whatsapp Groups. The neglected tatters of Whatsapp Groups, stored by my phone: I think they’re wonderful. When I’m bored, I scroll through my Whatsapp history, through the maze of idle conversation and frequent miscommunication, and look for old groups. And I look at who else is in there, the other people like me, the other idiots who felt: maybe I should stick around because maybe this group is going somewhere.
No, man. It’s not.
‘Events’ are impossible now without Whatsapp Groups. Gatherings of multiple people, at a specific time, on a specific occasion.
So here’s my question: where do the Whatsapp Groups end, and where does real life begin?
“Message on the Group.”
It’s a thing.
It’s replaced phone calls, for the most part.
It means: hey, I’m doing this thing, and it’s important that you guys are there, but not important enough for me to call you individually.
And the last thing. Our worst compulsion: to document everything that’s happening with the offline group for the online group. It’s like — everything that’s happening in real life is just fodder for my digital life.
The Group is all that matters.
The Real world? It’s just material. A focal point for my lens; a muse for my words.