What­sApp has be­come too much of a tat­tler

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Region - Dr Manju Gupta dr_­man­jugupta@icloud.com ■ The writer is a Gha­raunda­based gy­nae­col­o­gist

Con­grat­u­la­tions are in or­der. Users can do the un­doable or should I say undo the doable. The lon­gawaited delete op­tion is now avail­able on What­sApp. If you have ever sent a mes­sage to the wrong per­son or have mis­phrased a mes­sage in a mo­ment of pas­sion and then re­pented, you too must have prayed for this re­course to re­voke.

The sad news is that this fa­cil­ity comes with a caveat. You can’t delete a mes­sage with­out leav­ing a tell­tale mark. Like a badly erased er­ror, it leaves a read­able residue, ‘This mes­sage was deleted’. A grim re­minder to the oth­ers that some­thing ‘delete wor­thy’ had been con­ceived and writ­ten.

I would have ig­nored this small fall­out had I not no­ticed a long his­tory of snoopy be­hav­iour. The fact is that in com­par­i­son to oth­ers, What­sApp seems to en­joy be­ing a scan­dal­mon­ger. So while you can dis­creetly unfriend some­one or qui­etly leave a group on Face­book, there is no such free­dom here. Ex­its and ex­pul­sions are glee­fully an­nounced to all.

But let me di­gress from my laments and start where it all started. Like many of my gen­er­a­tion, I have re­luc­tantly warmed up to the world of elec­tronic mes­sag­ing. When I was new, a friend sug­gested I use non­stan­dard ab­bre­vi­a­tions and emoti­cons to sound young and hip. I tried but couldn’t tol­er­ate the look of a mis­spelt word and wor­ried that a grin­ning face would not be able to com­mu­ni­cate my joy. So like an old hag, I con­tinue to type whole words. I have suc­cumbed to its power though and have sur­ren­dered all my free time to it.

While the soft­ware was evolv­ing, I ob­served that not all changes could be called im­prove­ments. As if the ‘last seen’ op­tion was not in­tru­sive enough, the twin blue check marks that fol­lowed helped com­pound peo­ple’s ob­ses­sive streak. These tiny ticks set the clock tick­ing by telling users whether the mes­sage has been read at the other end.

Ca­sual chitchat is thus turned into le­gal no­tice. The ‘...is typ­ing’ in­for­ma­tion is equally an­noy­ing. It fills one with an­tic­i­pa­tion, spe­cially when it goes on and on. It seems that the re­spon­der is trapped in ver­bosity but when the mes­sage reaches, some­times, it’s just a ‘sure’ or worse a ‘thumbs up’ emoti­con. Makes one think, since it couldn’t have taken that long to type four let­ters, so the mes­sage ei­ther got lost in tran­sit or was de­lib­er­ately deleted. The con­tri­bu­tion of a slow in­ter­net con­nec­tion not­with­stand­ing, the ‘un­said’ is both­er­some.

Ini­tially be­ing part of a group was has­sle-free. You just had to turn the no­ti­fi­ca­tions off. You were then, free to read, if and when you wanted and re­spond if you felt like. Those days of care­less aban­don ended soon enough. In a bid to bet­ter the ap­pli­ca­tion, What­sApp made it pos­si­ble to get in­for­ma­tion about which mem­bers have re­ceived a post and who have seen it. So by a sim­ple tap, peo­ple know if you are ig­nor­ing them. The only way to es­cape is not to log in but the sus­pense of an un­read mes­sage could kill you, or at least harm you gravely.

Are you on it, when were you last on it, did you re­ceive the mes­sage, did you read the mes­sage, have you started replying, are you de­lib­er­at­ing or be­ing forth­right and fi­nally, did you delete a com­ment af­ter an un­guarded out­burst? All moves are watched and du­ti­fully re­ported.

It is no longer a leisure ac­tiv­ity, some­thing which you can do when you have noth­ing else to do. It’s too much pres­sure for ca­sual time pass. And al­though I as­sume that these up­grades must be well in­tended, you know what’s up with What­sApp... it’s be­come too much of a tat­tler!


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