Friday 14 May 2021
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The Evolution of WhatsApp

Social media communication has become a huge part of most people’s lives these days. It has become one of the best ways to stay informed. However one social media platform that has taken the front stance in instant information sharing is WhatsApp. WhatsApp has transitioned social networking in massive ways. It allows you to share documents, music, videos and images in a blink of an eye.

And speaking of sharing information, the social media platform has come to accommodate almost every conversation. From serious gossip groups, to educational ones. The rise of specific groups created to share vacancies has become one of the new greats. Taxi drivers on the other hand have their group to inform each other about City Police appearance and road blocks to avoid being fined. Business products reach a wider audience within the business community through WhatsApp groups than a newspaper would. Speak about night plans and looking forward to a good night, there is space for that too. And if you are the crazy type who is always on the roll to meet and hook up with new friends, there is a group of your kind too, who do not mind coming over. Furthermore we cannot leave out groups created to share exposed and leaked information.

Steven Harageib, a social worker at the Lifeline/Childline Namibia and an activist says that although WhatsApp was primarily meant to connect people with those that are closer to them and those in their contact list, it has now evolved and almost integrated to other social media platforms as well. Steven says that WhatsApp has become a platform for businesses to promote their products, an opportunity for people to meet new people, when it was initially a place to interact with those that one already knew.

“It has moved from a place of social interaction to a business place and much are more open about who we are. Most groups have closed the boundary of what it means to have a personal life because if you are on a WhatsApp group people have access to you as a contact in a particular group. One thing that it has definitely done is change the way we do communications, less people use text messages and more people are now using WhatsApp messages,” he explained.

Furthermore, Steven says that group creation allows people to communicate with a wide audience using one message. “You can also share a variety of media from pictures, to videos and voice notes which makes communication much more interesting and awesome. The other good thing is that the archives allow you to store messages which means you don’t have to delete messages unless you store them and always refer back to them, which is awesome” he said.

The negative part of WhatsApp
Although WhatsApp may seem to be convenient it has also become a threat to its users. Steven says that WhatsApp has been part of social media that has caused an increase of emotions in people. “Every time a notification appears on your phone you are compelled to read. There are people who freak out when they haven’t been on their phone for a couple of hours. You also spend a lot of money on data so that you stay online and see what’s going on. People are always anxious about breaking news, what’s happening and what’s new.

Cyber bullying also comes into place when people use WhatsApp to send pictures to you or use pictures that you sent as revenge porn etc.,” he says.

According to Steven WhatsApp has changed the way people communicate. “Even people under one roof, sitting close together, are sending WhatsApp messages to each other instead of having a conversation. Families now chat on WhatsApp and rarely talk.WhatsApp has also perpetuated the notion of independence that you can talk to someone in the real time anywhere in your house, in your room, in your country or in the world.

WhatsApp groups have become a platform where a lot of negative and false energy is spread. People also screenshot conversations and share on other social media platforms which make it very important to know that people watch what they share on WhatsApp platforms. Steven’s advice is that it is important to verify information that is shared on WhatsApp groups to ensure that it is not false. Make sure that you first verify the news, even if it’s someone that you know and trust it’s important to verify, get a second opinion and the best way will be to Google or look it up on the website or look at the carrier of that information. If you realise that the information is false or fake, notify the group immediately.

WhatsApp allows you to spam someone if they are not on your contact list which makes them unable to contact you. It’s important not to share your message with everybody especially if you are in groups and keep your WhatsApp private. Moreover, there is also a feature that allows you to block someone,” says Steven.

According to an article published by Destiny Magazine, WhatsApp is considered a personal platform since it displays personal information like someone’s cellphone number, thoughts (status update) and pictures.

For instance, when your boss asks you to make contact with a client or business partner, and the relationship is strictly professional, rather wait for them to initiate taking the conversation further on WhatsApp before you do. They might see it as an invasion of privacy.

Furthermore the article states that WhatsApp demands immediate response. “The problem with instant messaging is that we expect people to be ‘instantly’ available to respond. Sometimes you may be messaging someone at a really inconvenient time and they could read the message but are not be able to respond immediately. Don’t take it personal, allow for some breathing space. On the flip side, it is considered rude not to respond to someone’s message at all, especially if they’ve asked you a question. Rule of thumb: No one likes to be ‘blue-ticked’ (having their message read with no response).

We probably can’t remember what life was like before WhatsApp came into the picture and made instant messaging a walk in the park. But the “last seen” feature, where one’s contacts can see when last one was online, introduced insecurity for users and probably added more pressure to relationships.

How many times have we been asked: “Who were you chatting to on WhatsApp at 6am?” or “Why haven’t you responded to my messages even though you were online when they were sent?”

In as much as we love WhatsApp’s convenience, it just seems to be introducing features that get its users deeper and deeper into trouble. But thankfully users have the option of deactivating the ‘last seen’ feature, allowing them to dodge questions about why they never responded promptly,” reads the article.

WhatsApp surely has its own set of advantages which cannot be neglected, but it has allowed the sharing of a lot of damaging information within society.

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