The Dawn of the Age of Whatsapp Groups

Such a dramatic title, no?

A little over a week ago, I exited a Whatsapp group because I felt it added no value to my life. I’m a techie and it was a techie group. Specifically it was created with the purpose of discussing and sharing experiences when it came to our use of Intel technologies, both hardware and software. Of course we did not strictly exclusively discuss Intel technologies. We are techies and they are not the only vendors of developer tools out there so a silent allowance is made that other techie subjects are acceptable.

Once upon a time the maximum limit of a Whatsapp group was 50. It then grew to 100. By the time I was leaving this group it had been raised to a whooping 256! I must confess that of the 120 or so people in the group at the time of my leaving it, I bet they are 256 now, I had only met and actually interacted with at most, only about 15 of them. The rest, I could have walked right past on the streets of Nairobi and been non the wiser.

After a handful of months of being a member of this community, as it’s founder proudly proclaimed it, I had had it. I was tired of going to sleep and waking up to find 300 unread messages and discovering that most of it was senseless noise, I was tired of being privy to the degrading and objectifying manner with which women were referred to within the group and made very uncomfortable with the level of male entitlement with which these guys did it with…techie circles being dominated by men.

I felt like it had become an avenue to bully and frankly the topics of discussion veered away from technology way too often for me to bother with trying to filter out that which was relevant and useful.

The immediate backlash I faced for so ‘rudely’ exiting is a story for another day, but Whatsapp groups are here to stay so here’s a few of the people you are likely to find in them…

The loud ones, the trolls! A troll : one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument. They are the ones who post sans filter and the only thing worse than a troll, is a gang of trolls. If you are unfortunate enough to be in a group composed of more than one troll, I feel your pain! I consider little else to be worse than a combination of individuals who are ‘loud’, sans filter or any sense of social decorum because they get to hide behind the veil that social media affords them. They say the first thing that pops into their minds fully aware of the discomfort it may cause others and relish in the chaotic aftermath that is their intended purpose.

The blatantly inappropriate ones. I recently had to be privy to an individual in a group, this same techie group, informing others about some offer or new feature that a certain porn site had and shock upon me, this was the topic of discussion for quite some time, with no one telling this individual off. I doubt he personally knew even half of the 120 people in the group and I was abhorred by the audacity!

If you are lucky, someone polices the group. Someone who will call guys out when they start to veer off topic and keep things nice, filtered and relevant! Sometimes this is me, but lately, more often than not I do not bother. A friend of mine has a policy of giving groups 3 chances. 3 strikes and then you’re out. Exit group immediately. Life is too short to keep muting a group and ignoring their content when it is bothersome just because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by exiting.

The ‘forward’ guys. There are always those individuals that send extremely long forwards about all sorts of things! Sometimes I doubt that they themselves even read these things. It may be a new scam to watch out for, a story that highlights some morals, a Bible verse, a chain message that if forward to 10 people brings some sort of good fortune or one of those long messages with shapes and emojis dancing around in a seemingly animated manner as you scroll.

The ‘floss-ers’. Those who conveniently only get to posting anything in the group when they are flaunting the expensive hotels they are dining in or the famous and influential people they happened to bump into. We see you! We also saw you last week when you were broke and eating those subsidized student meals that can have you sufficiently full at 20 shillings even though you did not go on and on about that.

The hustlers! These guys will occasionally, out of nowhere, flood the group with pictures of their merchandise and their costs. Maximizing the use of all platforms for marketing purposes.

The silent ones. The ghost members. You see them online. You see that they have read the messages but never a peep from them!

Whatsapp groups have become the norm. If you are like me, I’m sure you find yourself in a newly created one more often than you would like. These days we create Whatsapp groups for everything!!! Planning a party or an event, create one. 7 years after high school, create one and put all your former classmates in it. Cheap and easy way for class representatives to pass messages to their whole class, create one. Siblings, create one. Sneezed at the same time, create one. Natural hair enthusiasts, create one. Once, I even found myself added to a group within which I knew no one! I gathered that we were all strangers to each other and whilst initially all that happened was individuals asking each other what the group was for and who created it, soon, marketing material for heavens knows what started coming through and I existed immediately, as did many others.

Let’s face it though, Whatsapp groups are here to stay! With the way things are going, social media etiquette might have to be introduced as a unit or course in schools!

Any other characters you’ve encountered that I have left out?

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    Nduta Njenga

    Kathleen, I must say that I am in love with your writing. Each article always has me looking forward to the next.
    Keep up the good work.

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