SU­SAN CALMAN ‘I have 45 dif­fer­ent What­sapp groups!’

The last thing our colum­nist wanted was a new time-wast­ing dis­trac­tion – then she dis­cov­ered the joys of What­sapp

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Contents - Su­san Calman

Iam a hugely avail­able woman (not like that, pipe down at the back) and you don’t need to look par­tic­u­larly hard to find a way to con­tact me. I’m on Twit­ter, In­sta­gram and Face­book. You can tele­phone me, email me or even reach me via my smart watch. I’m es­sen­tially on call 24 hours a day, like a com­pletely un­qual­i­fied doc­tor. Al­though, in my de­fence, I do watch a lot of the TV show Ca­su­alty so could al­most def­i­nitely per­form at least a mi­nor op­er­a­tion with only lim­ited risk. So, given the fact I al­ready ap­pear to live within the Ma­trix (al­beit one with Gar­den­ers’ Ques­tion Time in the back­ground rather than pound­ing rock mu­sic), why on earth should I give peo­ple more of an op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­rupt my day with non­sense?

This par­tic­u­larly pos­i­tive way of think­ing is why I’ve al­ways an­swered the com­monly asked ques­tion, ‘Shall we start a What­sapp group?’ with a de­fi­ant Padding­ton Bear stare and a def­i­nite ‘no’. My ob­jec­tions are nu­mer­ous, but mainly that I com­pletely and ut­terly fail to see the point of it. A group chat? That’s for young peo­ple. Are we 12 again? Will we use it to talk about how much we fancy John Tay­lor from Du­ran Du­ran?

In ba­sic terms, What­sapp is a mes­sag­ing ser­vice where you can add mul­ti­ple peo­ple to cre­ate a group con­ver­sa­tion more eas­ily than through tra­di­tional text mes­sag­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, like chips af­ter a night at the pub, it turns out I couldn’t avoid it for ever. When I joined Strictly last year, the pro­duc­ers set up a What­sapp group for all of us so they could eas­ily re­lay in­for­ma­tion. That was the be­gin­ning. Af­ter a slow trickle of mes­sages, an­other one was set up just for the con­tes­tants. Then one for pro­fes­sion­als and the con­tes­tants. Then my dance part­ner Kevin Clifton and I set one up. Then there was one with the cos­tume peo­ple and, be­fore I knew it, there were seven dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen­ing all at the same time.

The thing is, once you sign up to the ser­vice, peo­ple can add you to what­ever group they’ve cre­ated. Be­fore I knew it, I was ap­pear­ing in What­sapp groups about other tele­vi­sion shows that I was film­ing, then my friends started con­ver­sa­tions with me, de­lighted that I was at last liv­ing in the mod­ern world.

Now I have 45, yes, 45 dif­fer­ent groups! The group ‘Hiya’ is one with my neigh­bours Pamela and Rodger, where we share all sorts of non­sense, rang­ing from bin col­lec­tions to the weather. We also use it for ex­treme fun. Rodger loves the tele­vi­sion show Only Con­nect, par­tic­u­larly the miss­ing vow­els round. So, yes, we did sit in our houses play­ing a tele­vi­sion quiz show via an in­ter­net mes­sag­ing group. We’re cool like that. And, sur­pris­ingly, I gen­uinely think it’s prob­a­bly made us bet­ter friends than we would have been with­out it. We com­mu­ni­cate far more of­ten than we might have with­out the app, be­cause it seems eas­ier to just drop a quick mes­sage into the group.

Kevin and I still keep in touch, of­ten send­ing each other photos or videos of stupid things that we know will make each other laugh. The Strictly group is still go­ing strong with mes­sages about what we’re all up to and in­vites to par­ties and gath­er­ings. I’ve even got a group with Phil and Kirstie from Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion, Lo­ca­tion, be­cause the first thing we did when we started work­ing to­gether was set up a chat. I just ask them loads of ques­tions about houses. I’m sure they love it.

I of­ten wake up to hun­dreds of mes­sages and can’t wait to get stuck in. I know I could be do­ing some­thing more in­ter­est­ing with my life, but I gen­uinely feel much more con­nected with peo­ple than I did be­fore. I spend so much time on my own trav­el­ling for work that, for me, it’s a way of feel­ing less lonely and more hu­man. I can chat to peo­ple any­time and any­where and there’s al­ways some­one on­line ready to lis­ten.

I even have a What­sapp group with my sis­ter, where we talk about how hand­some John Tay­lor is. It’s just like we’re 12 again. How mar­vel­lous.

I can chat to peo­ple any­time and any­where

ONLY CON­NECT

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