Is there a book somewhere on WhatsApp etiquette? And if there isn’t can someone write it please.
My son just got into class one. Within a week of this somebody set up a group of ‘Mothers of Class IA,’ on WhatsApp. I got added, without being asked. There was an invitation for a birthday party followed by all the mothers wishing the birthday boy. Then there was some talk about the timings for a special class day but otherwise the week began with jokes, pictures and videos being posted, applauded and commented on. That is when I requested that we stick to school and class related posts. “Whose mother are you?” asked one mum. About five mothers seconded my request. And immediately after that the “whose mother are you?” woman posted a video and started a chat with another woman. And so on it continued. There were some critical discussions in between - on a tough page of homework, on some date issues for a dictation and so on. But finding them in the deluge of jokes and videos became too much and I exited the group.
The WhatsApp platform is like an amoeba; groups form and disintegrate all the time. They are with people you know very well, somewhat well, not at all or with complete strangers at times. And it is a very public place. Shouldn’t we then follow the same norms of behaviour that we do in the physical space? If you are in a coffee shop, at the same table with a bunch of people you have just met, would you want to watch their porn, listen to their songs or their spiritual proclivities? Because that is what many people insist on sharing.
It is the same thing as listening to music on your mobile phone, without earphones - and I meet dozens of such people on my early morning walk. Somehow it doesn’t occur to them that other people may not like the noise or their choice of music or both. This need to let everybody hear the bhajan or item number you are listening to has nothing to do with demographics. I have had several arguments with colleagues in my previous jobs. They would put on music in the background on their PCs while working. And look completely befuddled when I suggested that they should get earphones since I was trying to write.
Over two years of being on WhatsApp, I have exited several groups - the mothers group when my son was in KG, my school friends gang and about a dozen other groups. And I am still part of several - a group of colony moms, the Geeta class gang, MBA batch-mates, a special class that my son attends and so on. In many of these, I barely register my presence, in some I am very active. But they all take time away from my home, child or work. And therefore the attempt to discipline their use. The colony mums gang, for example, is my hangout area, so that is where everything is allowed. The Geeta class group is only for posting things relevant to class timing or changes in them or to say that someone is not coming. So far it has been violated with random posts only a couple of times. Most of the others stick to the main reason the group was formed and there is no overload of random posts that need to be deleted - a job almost as bad as cleaning the house, especially if you are on several platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. If you don’t do it often enough chances are your phone will hang from the memory overload.
The whole frustration with myriad groups and the boorishness on display pushed me to Google for material on WhatsApp Etiquette. While I couldn’t find any books there are loads of articles on mobile phone and WhatsApp etiquette. Most have the same common-sensical dos and don’ts that you would apply for conversations in the physical space. Don’t add people to a group without asking them, don’t post stuff that is irrelevant or gross, don’t have one to one conversations and so on.
And here is a rule that I broke don’t exit a group without mentioning the reason.
The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/vanitakohlik