The other day I decided to leave seven WhatsApp groups in one fell swoop. That’s right. Seven.
I thought it would be a nice number as I have always had a fondness for the number seven. Besides its Biblical significance, it is also my birth date. Significant things have happened in my life in years which have had the number seven -- this year for instance.
Only a year back had I braved my finances and both of us migrated to Android phones. We were ‘with it.’ Or so I thought.
Later I realized huge chunks of my time were being consumed by an amorphous entity called the ‘group.’ I was expected to respond to usually inane forwards and say how delighted I was – at least by a smiley. For fear of offending the sentiments of the group, one was reduced to being a passive spectator and acquiescing to almost everything. If you did otherwise you were served a show cause or vilified on the group. The group called the shots.
Things that mattered to me – like my article on Gauri Lankesh – did not cut any ice on the group. My personal bereavement became just a statistic. Anyway, a WhatsApp group may not be the right forum to publicize grief.
Add to that the inappropriate content in terms of explicit adult images, misogyny, and pious platitudes -- and you have a scenario where you don’t know if you are coming or going. In a culture of compromise, my identity was being eroded.
A WhatsApp group is not without its bullies. Bullies are those who stymie any expression on the group – often diffident – and steam roll it with their own version, which of course, is the ultimate truth. Unless other members of the group rise to the defence of the member who was shouted out, the affected person recedes into the background, humiliated and hurt. It is out of such a sharing that one person recently confided, ‘I'm scared to post on the group.’
The other aspect of being on multiple groups is that the same forward appears, in my case, on an average of five times! The groups I am still on, have a strict ‘No forwards’ protocol.
Groups are nowadays made at a drop of a hat. They are usually made with the intention of facilitating a common agenda. However, being dynamic and hopefully evolving beings, that agenda is always subject to change or even dismissal. Not everyone appreciates that. After the event is over, or the objective accomplished the group should be dissolved. There are umpteen other ways to contact people apart from doing so through a group.
Agreeing to be on a WhatsApp group merits careful thought. I realized I was not growing, and neither were many others on the group. To keep abreast of the various messages I used to frenetically flick my phone, much to my little son’s disdain and impatience. Now I have all the time to play with him.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 12 November 2017. Photo courtesy digitaledge(dot)org.