Why our good morning meme makers can't stop greeting
Even as Google creates an app specially to help Indians delete the bulk of good morning messages jamming the net, serial greeters say they are agents of positive change
Most of us imagined that the countless good morning messages on WhatsApp that we wake up to daily, vanish into the black hole of cyber space. We barely have a moment to give a thought to the first before the next good morning meme comes in. And, this seemingly endless assembly line of feel-good wishes sent by Indians is now clogging up Internet space, according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal last week. So much so, that Google has had to develop Files Go, a special app to help us delete the pile up. Internet surveys have indicated a 10-fold increase in search for 'good morning' memes. The engineers at Google spent months "trying to decode the DNA of a 'good morning' message" according to Josh Woodward, Google product manager who led the team building Files Go.
Deepesh Solanki, 38
Managing Director, Elite Sports India
Member of: 50 WhatsApp groups
Contact list of: 8,000
So, what is it about this greeting that makes it addictive?
Deepesh Solanki has over 8,000 WhatsApp contacts, and each morning, he types out a message that will reach this pool of thousands. He uses the broadcast feature on WhatsApp to send his thought of the day across 50 groups that he is part of. They include family, friends, colleagues, business aquaintances, universities, the media and so on. The message sent on the morning we spoke to him was: Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. #RiseUp #MoveAhead.
Shaibal Chatterjee, 43
Head of Operations at an agri business firm
Member of: 63 WhatsApp groups
Contact list of: 586
Solanki, who is the founder of the basketball league in India and Managing Director of Elite Sports India, one of the largest operators of sports organisations in India, maintains a stock of messages to send. "I read a lot. At this point, I have nearly 1,000 e-books stored on my phone. Whenever something strikes me, I make a note and message it to myself. That way, each morning I don't have to think what to send. I am prepared the previous night." A couple of days ago, owing to a hospital visit, his morning message didn't reach the groups. "I received 150 inquiries asking why. I think I am making a difference in people's lives, by sending across motivational thoughts. It helps me motivate myself too," says the 38-year-old, a resident of Karjat.
Rathin Bose, 64
Retired public sector executive
Member of: Not member of a group
Contact list of: 500
While Solanki would imagine himself as a champion, Shaibal Chatterjee, who works as Head of Operations with an agri business firm, calls himself an addict. "There's no polite way to say it," he laughs, sharing that he is part of almost 50 groups across two WhatsApp accounts. "I am known to be the chattiest in both." Fifty is only a ball-park figure, as it could go beyond that, he feels. "I've lost count, actually." Each morning, Chatterjee types out an original good morning message — ["I don't believe in forwarded messages", he says] and sends it to 20 groups and some personal, one-on-one ones too. "It's the only way I feel connected to people. I cannot pick up the phone and wish 200 people, good morning."
For 64-year-old Rathin Bose, recently retired public sector executive, a morning wish takes on a different flavour. The well-travelled man makes a meme out of his travel photographs and shares it with his contacts, which is about 30 people daily. "I am not part of a WhatsApp group. I like to connect with people individually," he says. What prompts this daily ritual? "Sukoon. That is what I feel when I send them out. And also, I get to stay connected."
Unlike Chatterjee or Solanki who live alone, and are therefore heavily reliant on the app to stay in touch, Bose lives with his family and has an active social life. "I don't think it's got to do with how you live. If you feel like connecting, you'll do it regardless."
Unreciprocated is fine
It's interesting that none of the people we spoke to, expect a reply. "I send it [the daily message] because it makes me feel good," Solanki says. "It does not matter if they [contacts] reply." Chatterjee adds, "In a group, when I am sending a message, I don't address it to anyone specific. So, it's fine if they don't reply. Although that is something that almost never happens. However, when it's a personal text, I do expect the person to wish me back."
Sometimes, the blue-tick feature, an indicator that the message has been read, comes in handy. Bose points out, "I am happy that they have seen my message. So, for one moment, I have connected with them. And that's enough for me. If I feel like talking more, I call. It's not really a give-and-take game."
Good morning off-line
Given the discipline followed in online greetings, we wonder if the same reflects off-line too. Since both Solanki and Chatterjee stay away from their families, there is no opportunity for exchange of greetings at home. "I wish the janitor of my building every morning, and then the children who play downstairs," Solanki says. For Chatterjee, off-line good mornings begin at work. "It's a nice way to start the day, to start a conversation even, rather than just jump into things," he says. Bose never misses a "good morning" greeting at the breakfast table. "It has been a habit since childhood, I am not even conscious of it."
The discipline of greeting aside, there doesn't seem to be much personal conversation occurring between WhatsApp users. The content shared mostly covers jokes, videos, news breaks and songs. Chatterjee says on a jovial note, "My wife, for instance, does not receive a good morning message from me personally. That goes to the 'sasural' group." For Solanki, it rarely extends beyond basic "how are you" and "have you eaten" with family. "Most of my WhatsApp communication is in the professional sphere where people want to know what I am working on. As a coach, sometimes, I even hold auditions remotely, on video call." Political debates are par for course, for Chatterjee, on WhatsApp. "I often get reprimanded for the same. But, when a certain matter is discussed in a group, there are more voices at play, and therefore, the debate is solid. On a one-on-one basis, such discussions are odd. Also, in a group, a conversation or a photo or a video shared should be topical, so that everyone can relate to it," Chatterjee says. "If you want to talk personal stuff, just pick up the phone and call."
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