There is an increase in social messaging apps in the past few years. After the overwhelming success of WhatsApp everyone has started their own version like Telegram (a personal favourite), Viber, Allo, Hangouts and the list goes on. These have become an integral part of our lives. Almost everyone with such an app will either text someone or change his display picture (dp), status or will probably stalk his contact list by browsing through their dps and statuses. Very few people lead a non whatsapp life. Our parents might be a part of them. They might just use them to send greetings, important news and photos. Else they would prefer to meet or call their friends and family. While some of our parents have perfectly integrated the apps into their lives like us.
What was WhatsApp supposed to be? I feel it was supposed to be a substitute for the SMS services and a way for people to know about your availability. It was supposed to be a means by which we could send text messages for free instead of paying SMS charges. It was made a paid app so as to control its growth. But didnt stop its popularity. Eventually it was made free and it exploded. Each phone had this app. But like each and everything that made man’s life easy or somehow gave him some kind of power, it started being misused. It became a substitution for talking with people. Since this was the direction in which the app was going, the developers started introducing features to simulate a conversation. Last seen, the ominous blue ticks, voice calls, video calls all are a form to mimic a real life conversations.
Last seen, a way to see if the individual is present or no. Blue ticks to see if the person “heard” what you said. Soon a feature to screenshot conversations, because we can’t remember everything. If we really see, this has become a form of talking. Since it’s just text with no emotions, emoticons were introduced. Though there are certain debatable topics for which emoji means what, they are still used. These emojis add emotion to our chats in a way. What makes these so dangerous is that we can see all this. The last seen and blue ticks. God help you if your last seen is later than the message sent by your patner/parents/bffs. If you see the message and dont reply almost instantaneously, it is very much possible to see your obituary in the paper. But often the last seen and blue ticks show wrong information. Afterall the message and information delivery to your phone depends on many factors like your and your friend’s net connectivity, the load on the app’s server etc. If you hide your last seen or remove blue ticks, it can be seen as a way to hide your true feelings/emotions/status with someone. It is, in a way, hiding from a certain section of your social life. Sometimes people are too busy to reply which can be disheartening. What is even more sad is when people dont reply to your repeated messages. We have certain etiquettes when we meet someone. It would sure be helpful if someone laid down certain dos and donts for texting. The greatest way someone can show that they dislike you is when they block you. It is almost similar to ignoring someone.
The dps are probably a way to identify that this is the right contact number you have. But nowadays some people put random pictures or of a gift they received. The function of status has also changed. If you look at the inbuilt options, they include Available, Busy, At work etc, all of these show your availability. But now we use them to write our state of mind or a quote we read somewhere. Type “status” in Google and the first page has sites dedicated to good and innovative whatsapp statuses. Also it has become a social norm to put a dp with the “bday guy/girl” and a status saying “Happy bday” for them. Over the course of time, we have learnt to give an original twist by putting a personal message. Also on Independence Day, we have to put a tricolour flag as a dp or our childhood photo on Children’s Day. We change our whatsapp dp in support of a cause. “Change your dp to a black dot to show your support for No Rape”. This concept still eludes me. How will a dp change show my support. I have to do something for it. Call Police, if i see a girl being eve-teased if i cant physically drive her teasers away
But has this change in the form of communication affected us? Yes, to an extent. Even though our main form of communication has become through texts, we still occasionally try to hangout with our friends. All of us will agree that we have better memories when we hangout with our friends. Texting is just like alot of starter. It is always when we are physically present that matters. That is always the main course. No amount of starters can beat the main course. The texting format uses the human nature of not saying about our feelings. Earlier people would write letters or chits to say what they wanted to. We do the same but we do it all the time for everything. This has made us socially awkward. We cant talk freely about our feelings with ours bffs/family verbally. We are much more comfortable to do it via texts. We live in a very paradoxical society. Where we want to talk about our problems via texts but only a warm and comforting voice will help us through our ordeals. No wonder, it is our school friends that last the most in our lives. We spend 10 years, if not more, with them. Afterall a face to face conversation is more fun than a face to screen conversation.