Don’t shoot the mes­sen­ger

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - OPIN­ION David Mo se­ley

WHEN I w as in high school, I met a girl dur­ing a sports tour. We e xchanged num­bers and ad­dresses, and I spent much of my ma­tric year whis­per­ing into a phone at the end of the cord’s length while my nosey fam­ily s trained their ear s t o lis ten in.

The let­ters were dif­fer­ent. There we shared long anec­dotes about our weeks at school, pro­fessed our undy­ing af­fec­tion for each other and made prom­ises for post­school dates and ro­man­tic in­ter­ludes to come. Even­tu­ally it all fiz­zled out, but for a year the buzz of re­ceiv­ing a let ter in the pos t, my name writ ten in three dif­fer­ent colours, a small heart above the “i” and try­ing t o guess the se­crets sealed inside could not be beat.

Now, of course, if you meet some­one in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion t o the one de ­ scribed abo ve y ou c ould be send­ing mes­sages of de vo­tion in an ins tant. Texts, W hat­sApp and other ins tant mes­sag­ing ser­vices have ex­pe­dited the process.

Ev­ery­thing w ould hap­pen quick er, too. A long , dr awn­out, long ­dis­tance ro­mance lik e mine, w hich dragged on for al­mos t a y ear, would be done and dusted inside t wo da ys.

While in­stant mes­sage ser­vices such as What­sApp are a fan­tas­tic way to stay in t ouch, the y can also be a lit tle t oo in­stant. T here’s al ways the chanc e, when you’re in a hurry to com­mu­ni­cate, that a me ssage be­ing sent doe sn’t al ­ ways r each the de sired t ar­get.

For ex­am­ple, a f ew weeks ago I was away fr om home and bef ore go­ing t o bed sent my wife a serie s of me ssages telling her ho w much I lo ved her and so on (ob­vi­ously after too many beers).

No replies were forth­com­ing, so I fell asleep in a huff. When I woke up I saw that my friend Jonathan had mes­saged overnight.

“I lo ve y ou t oo,” his me ssage r ead. “Well, that ex­plains it,” I thought while writ­ing to Robyn, who was ask­ing why I hadn’t mes­saged her the night be­fore.

But that’ s mi­nor c om­pared t o m y soon­to­be­par­ents friends P ete and Thivash. One of the gr eat t ools of What­sApp is gr oup mes­sag­ing, al­low­ing you to add nu­mer­ous peo­ple to one con­ver­sa­tion. Say, for in­stance, there are a few of you who like to cy­cle. Add ev­ery­one to a gr oup and one me ssage does the trick f or a time and plac e.

Thivash thought this w ould be a great way to an­nounce the birth of her child to se­lect friends and f am­ily. The baby is onl y due lat er this month, but two weeks ago a num­ber of us re­ceived a What­sApp gr oup me ssage with the head­ing “Thivash and Pete baby born”.

Im­me­di­ately re­ac­tions started ping­ing back and forth. Most were shocked that the b aby was so ear ly, other s of­fered cau­tious c on­grat­u­la­tions, per ­ haps w on­der­ing if some­thing w ent wrong. Then Pete, the fa­ther, ap­peared on the group, say­ing, “Oh jeez, I bet­ter leave work then and get to the hos­pi­tal”. At the same time, the cr eator of the group, Thivash, left the group, leav­ing ev­ery­one t o spec­u­lat e on the sur­prise early arri val. By now, f am­ily mem­bers from ar ound the w orld w ere writ­ing con­fused “con­grats?”, with oth­ers sim­ply of­fer­ing “huh?” to the con­ver­sa­tion.

It wasn’t the baby that was early, just the an­nounc ement, with T hivash not re­al­is­ing that the gr oup is shar ed the in­stant it’s cre­ated. She’s as­sured us all that the ac­tual an­nounc ement will be per­formed along more tra­di­tional lines — on Face­book. — News24.

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