Of course you are – go on, add them up, I think you are in for a shock. I am on nineteen groups. Nineteen! Nineteen groups of (mostly) women chatting, planning, organizing everything from family dates to surf dates to kids play dates. Each with a cute icon and a million billion emoticons. I have all notifications on mute because I get into enough trouble at home* for the amount of WhatsApp chat – imagine if the damn thing still pinged every time someone sent me a smiley face.
“I can’t keep track anymore!” A friend moaned after being added to a new group, peering at the enlarged icon on her screen trying to figure out if she recognized the glamazon in the photo. I laughed but it made me wonder if the Group thing was getting out of hand. My clever husband, always the one to master the new tech thing just as I am getting to grips with the old tech thing, had first pointed out the magic that would hook us all. “You can do a group chat on WhatsApp, so it’s different to BBM.” Remember Blackberry Messenger? You had to share your pin before anyone could chat to you and there were no groups. No groups! Imagine being asked if you want to chat, imagine chatting to one person at a time, imagine not having to read the fifty damn messages of two people who forgot about the other twenty-five people on the group who just don’t friggin care and want to sleep.
Problem is that it’s just so easy to make a group. Anyone can decide “Right, let’s add these hundred people in my address book into one group so we can all talk at the same time. Let’s choose that unbelievably flattering photo of me as the icon and let’s call it something clever and annoying.” (Tip – If ever you can’t think of a name, google good names for WhatsApp groups, there are sites devoted to it). And There’s It ala Suzelle. A WhatsApp Group.
All good if you are the powerful Group Organiser. But try getting off a group or try ignoring the messages. You are pretty stuffed since both are nearly impossible to do without everyone knowing (thanks to those damn ticks and double ticks and the helpful announcements when you Exit or get Deleted by the Group Organiser). It’s like banging the door as you leave the room or being booted out while everyone watches. Possible but not easy. Another friend who hates Group Chat always waits until late at night when everyone is asleep before she Exits a group. She hopes no one notices but someone always adds her back onto the group in the morning just to piss her off. And then we send her fifty dancing ladies with a smiley poo to make sure she knows she can never escape.
I joke about the horror of Group Chat, and I haven’t even really gotten started – there’s still the phenomena of Too Early and Too Late chat, the Emoticon Overload, the Photo spam and Chat Rage that I haven’t touched on – but I admit that Group Chat has its uses. It’s more Love than Hate. South Africa agrees with me I think, apparently we are number one in the world on WhatsApp usage rates**. I’m anyways on nineteen for goodness sake I have to find an upside to the whole thing!
But here it is. Group Chats have helped me remember things I would’ve forgotten, helped me organize meetings and birthdays, tipped me off about school projects and family functions. There have been Group Chats that got me laughing out loud, keeping my friends close in a way that wouldn’t happen if we had to wait for the perfect schedule when we could all actually see each other. It’s connected my extended family in an everyday way that simply isn’t possible now that we don’t live in the same street anymore. It’s instant. It’s not a substitute for having a cup of tea with someone, but sometimes it’s simply all there is, it’s better than nothing. You can share a little thing that would be forgotten about by the time the big reunion rolls around. Or you can send a smiley face to say “hey, I can’t see you but I’m thinking of you”. Take my Ma. My 87 year old gran is the biggest WhatsApp-er I know and she can work our family WhatsApp group like it’s nobody’s business. She doesn’t actually chat a lot but on any given day she will forward something from somewhere – a pic, a prayer, a video clip, an invitation to Friday lunch sent at 4:30 am. Yes, it eats into all our data, and I admit I don’t download the whole thing when I’m not in Wi-Fi. But when I see her chat, before I’ve even read it I know that she actually means “I can’t see you, but I’m thinking of all of you.” And you know, that’s worth a whole Group Chat of emoticons and then some. Love ya chat Ma xx
Want to tell me some of your chat stories? Mail me, I’m on enough group chats for the moment …
*for my husband – No I am not actually chatting on all of these all the time.
For other weird and interesting things about WhatsApp check this: