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
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