Miss W’s blog: What’s up with WhatsApp?

I have been asking this question over and over again this year, as what was once a clever little free SMS app seems to have taken over the world of communication. Well, that leads me to another question actually: Has the whole world gone mad over WhatsApp or is it just people here in Ibiza who can’t seem to function without it?

Don’t get me wrong. I, like 1.5 billion other people around the world (true stat), use WhatsApp on a daily basis. In theory, it’s great. Free instant messaging and free phone calls – it basically just makes your regular phone better. And cheaper, obviously. What’s not to love? Well… don’t get me started. It’s all about having good WhatsApp etiquette – perhaps they should start teaching it in schools.

Did you know that there are over 60 billion messages sent daily? And I swear at least one third of those come directly into my phone on a high summer’s day. The sheer volume could partly be attributed to the fact most people don’t type their entire message in one block, as you would an email, but rather, a series of one-line messages that (when you’re on the receiving end) can actually be quite pesky. Especially if you have sound notifications on (which I do not!) or are using your telephone for another purpose. The constant interruption is enough to drive you crazy. And not to mention very distracting.

Then there’s the attitude many WhatsApp users have adopted, that if you’ve read a message (hello little double blue ticks), you should be obliged to answer immediately. I don’t know about you… but I try to be in the moment when I’m doing my job, cooking a meal, interacting with friends, playing with my cats, shopping and most definitely driving (among other things). Sometimes I may glance at a message, to see if it’s important, but if I’m busy doing something else and I think the reply can wait… I’ll wait. Even when you’re watching TV… sometimes you just need to disconnect. Life shouldn’t be interrupted just because of a little ping on your phone.

Using WhatsApp for important work details is another little pet peeve of mine. I thought long and hard about whether to write this point. I wondered whether I was just getting old and refusing to accept moving into the future. I also wondered whether I might offend anyone! But then I thought even longer and even harder and decided that my point is valid (for my job, anyway – can’t speak for all professions and industries out there). So before I share my gripe, let me first start with all the positive things WhatsApp has brought into my work life. Confirming a meeting time via WhatsApp – brilliant. Or the ability to let people know you’re running late – amazing. Sharing contact details with colleagues and clients – handy. Dropping pins for obscure Ibiza locations – couldn’t live without it.

But trust me, in addition to all these handy helpful things, there’s a downside. You see, when someone sends me a press release or information on WhatsApp for an article or piece of content, or an invitation to an event, I have to admit it just gets lost amongst the other 20 billion messages I got that day. It gets pushed down in a feed and my memory – although pretty good – is not photographic. (Maybe I just need a PA.) There’s a fair chance it will just get forgotten. And photos sent over WhatsApp are compressed, thus reducing the quality (fine for selfies and kitty cat photos, but not for high-res imagery). Send me an email however, and you’re right there in my inbox – I can save attachments in the right file, add events to my calendar and if I’m not actioning it right away, I’ll keep it in my inbox so I don’t forget.

Oh, but you can get WhatsApp on your desktop now, I can hear all you staunch WhatsApp fans thinking. Yes, I know. I have it. I use it. Often. And I can’t help but think how distracting it is. Not only are those little notifications on your phone, but also now your big screen. I’ve noticed those people using the desktop version tend to write much longer messages (myself included), ones which probably would have been more suited to an email. All I can say is… think before you type! How urgent is what you have to say? Of what level of importance is it? Do you need a paper trail of the communication between you and that person (say, in the case of negotiating a deal)? Or is it just a little friendly chat?

Speaking of friendly chats, the politics of a group chat has also become something we’ve got to worry about. If you get involved on a chat, it’s never-ending… but if you opt out, well first of all you look rude, and second of all, you get FOMO. What’s even worse is when your group crosses continents and you start receiving messages at all hours of the morning due to time differences. And speaking of times – there’s another thing that doesn’t seem to cross the average WhatsApp user’s mind. You wouldn’t call someone say, between 11pm and 9am (unless you’re family or besties – but again, I’m talking about work) so what makes you think it’s ok to send a barrage of work-related WhatsApps in these hours? Sure, it’s ok if you want to burn the midnight oil, but keep in mind soooo many of us sleep with our phones by our heads and don’t want work messages to be the first thing we see when we wake up.

Last, but not absolutely least: WhatsApp voice messages. ARE YOU SERIOUS? I cannot even begin to explain how much I do not like this feature of the app – unless you are my amazing friend Miss S, who sends me voice messages that run over seven minutes and are more like an entertaining podcast. But trust me, she’s the exception. ‘Sorry I’m driving so can’t text.’ is the classic excuse. Errr, ok, but you still had to pick up your phone, search for my number and hold down the record button so it’s equally as unsafe. Why can’t you just pick up the phone and call me if you want me to hear your voice? Or take the time to write a text, or in the case that it’s lengthy, an email? A voice message for me goes in one ear and out the other… by the time I’ve finished listening, I’m likely to forget what you’ve asked me to do. But if you’d written it, it would be right there in front of my face. SIGH.

Yes, I know it’s technology and I know it’s an advancement and I know it’s convenient for so many people (and if English isn’t your first language then of course I am more receptive to your voice message) but… in my book, it’s just LAZY. Maybe the writer in me is so sad to see the demise of the English language (probably every language come to think of it) through the use of apps like this. Half the time you don’t even need to spell any more, you can just select an emoji. I am partial to using an emoji, I must admit… but I’m also confident that I can spell every word I need a picture for!

Let me finish this little rant with this. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (yes, I lke to do a little light reading on my nights off) WhatsApp dependency and addiction is now a medically recognised (and treatable) condition. Meanwhile, TIME Magazine posted an article about a woman in the USA who was diagnosed with WhatAppititis – a (slightly humorous) condition not unlike carpal tunnel caused by six hours spent non-stop messaging. Apparently, it was easily treated with a little rest and ibuprofen. Maybe it’s time to follow the hipsters who are going back to the use of old-school analog phones. No apps, no fuss…