Wifey created group “Family”
Wifey added you
Gulp! If being in tens of whacky WhatsApp groups ranging from ‘Old Boys’ to ‘Professional Pilots’ (an oxymoron, actually) isn’t bad enough, I now have to deal with ‘Family’ and ‘In-laws’ groups. My teenage son calls them ‘mutual admiration societies’, though I don’t necessarily agree with him (at least about the latter group). As of now, my wife has tacitly checkmated me – “You dare leave my family group and I will leave your family group”! Reminds me of the Eagles’ hit ‘Hotel California’ – you can check out any time you like, but you can NEVER leave!
This is my punishment for having downloaded that innocuous looking App with a green & white blurb. WhatsApp messenger has over 1 billion downloads and counting. That’s at least a few million beneficiaries (read silent victims) of ‘WhatsApp Groupism’. And the numbers are increasing as explosively as Zika virus.
Presently, I am “going steady” with about eight groups and have ‘visiting faculty’ status on three others (strictly speaking, it means I either get expelled, or exit every now and then, from these three groups). I have a wide spectrum of loyalties, some voluntary, some thrust down electronically (“C’mon, how can you NOT be a part of our company group?!”).
Every morning, I am besieged by ‘good morning’ messages, words of unsolicited wisdom, good health tips (“before dawn, drink a whatchamacallit mishmash of bitter gourd juice with two lemons squeezed in”), views of sunrise from my friend’s bedroom, and such other trivia that make me wonder how life was before the advent of this curious ‘app’endage.
Just the other morning while rueing my dismal performance at the gym off late, I was slam-dunked by my colleague’s latest half-marathon performance which made me crawl sheepishly back inside my blanket. If it’s not ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Republic Day’, it is somebody’s birthday. Oh, that reminds me – I must punch out that birthday greeting to Amit before heading for the washroom! By the time I return, my phone is brimming over with unread messages for the birthday boy – like stampeding wildebeest in the savannah! And this is the group where birthday messaging was strictly forbidden by Admin.
I am seeing a pattern in all this. A kind of ‘group messaging dynamics’, if you will. Apart from the ‘herd mentality’ or conformism that characterises such groups, I notice even individual members can be classified into ‘species’ or ‘subjects’ that behave in a predictable manner. You may wonder what an idle man I must be to research such minutiae. Actually, it was the inane banter I endure every day on eleven groups that prodded me to do some deep thinking, if indeed that is possible while being on so many groups!
Firstly, there are the supreme ‘Admins’ who are on top of the social media hierarchy. While most of us get ‘added’, they ‘create’. Ever looking for an opportunity to lasso together a bunch of contacts into the next ‘most happening’ group, they don’t even seek your permission before pulling you into the circus. As a ‘Deputy Admin’ myself (ahem), I must admit it’s a complex responsibility – approximating that of Hon’ble Speaker in the Indian Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament).
There are the ‘Old Monks’ or ‘Learned Ones’ who have assumed upon themselves the solemn duty to distribute early morning wisdom, borrowed of course from the neighbouring group (who in turn have borrowed it from their affiliations & so on). After having dispensed with their responsibility early in the day, these monks retreat into deep meditation – till it’s time to bring up the new pearl of borrowed wisdom.
The ‘Roosters’ also surface with equal periodicity– once a day, to be precise, with the call ‘good morning guys’ and vamoose, satisfied with logging their daily attendance. They are convinced that they wield some magical powers to change our miserable existence with their daily intonation.
After the early morning pleasantries, it’s time to make way for the self-assured ‘think tanks’ who perhaps feel that newspapers are a luxury only they can afford. Having dropped that nodule of current affairs into your early morning cuppa, it devolves upon them to present the bare bones analysis. For fear of being labelled anti-national, I dare not tell them that I prefer Bollywood item numbers to what happened in the ‘Make in India’ summit at Mumbai. So I let them drone on.
Closely following on the heels of ‘think tanks’, come the MCs or ‘Master of Ceremonies’ –self-styled mediators of intense WhatsApp webinars on topics as wide ranging as Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (Unnatural Offences) to whether Christine Lagarde should continue to head the IMF (Disclaimer: No connection, direct or indirect, is intended in this comparison). Having lost their voice at home (or office), these MCs intimidate a poorly-informed, captive audience with their daily tirade against whatever is wrong in the society or the world at large. Well-intentioned but un-implementable solutions fly thick and fast. And voila! After an hour, we are back where we started.
Joke factories keep churning out fresh dough every minute like a cottage industry. This activity is spearheaded by the ‘Cheerleaders’ or joke peddlers. No amount of threats or coercion from the Admin can dissuade them and they remain steadfast in their mission to overwhelm you with the ‘latest naya maal in market’.
There are the ‘banner streamers’ whose duty it is to keep changing the group’s status daily, hourly or as per some random almanac. They feel it is necessary for keeping some of the sleeping beauties abreast of what goes on. It also justifies their existence on the group.
‘Pseudo busybees’ pop in every once a while and lament about how spam is making them miss out on important updates. Hello, good morning! Nobody told you WhatsApp groups are meant for exchanging jokes or media?! If it was important, we would have called or emailed, thank you very much!
A close relative of the ‘Pseudo busybee’ is the ‘CCTV’ – a silent spectator who watches over everything, reads every single message, but never ever comments. It’s almost like they aren’t there, only they monitor everything like multi-channel CCTV! Beware of these members. Upar waala sab dekh raha hai (the Almighty sees everything). Anything they see or read may be recorded and used as evidence against you!
One species which populates every group, even those with a strictly ‘professional’ mandate, are the ‘Non-vegans’ – ones who see or are capable of seeing everything through amorous lenses. Their single-minded agenda is to steer all discussion, whether about climate change or OROP (the much debated one-rank-one-pension logjam) towards a certain Ms. Leone, or her tribe. If you think there is nothing in common between Virgin Galactic’s space odysseys and Naughty America, think again – these non-vegans will make you see the connection! Some of these people go on to form their own very successful, naughty little groups where they completely eschew pseudo-intellectual debates and embrace Ms. Leone and her cohorts unabashedly (no pun intended). Entry to such groups are strictly ‘on invitation’.
‘Reggie Mantles’ burden everybody in the group with their Endomondo workouts, tedious blogs and self-adjudged works of art in the hope of becoming the next internet sensation. Their pet ideologies and ‘my way or the highway’ rantings occasionally cause them to lock horns with ‘Politicians’ who are prone to escalate any debate at the drop of a hat. True to their proclivity, the politicians’ most lethal weapon is the threat to stage a walkout. No worries, the ‘bouncers’ or ‘peacekeepers’ will soon escort them back into the group, white flags and all. ‘Fight in public, make up on PM’, that’s the trick. In the end, all’s well that mends well.
Then there are people who insist on sprinkling their lines with multiple exclamations (!!!), LOLs and winks, as if they are lost for words (which indeed they are). They are true followers of Blaise Pascal who is known to have said “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” Only in this case, a short sentence will be followed by a string of emoticons, cakes, candles, festoons, beer mugs etc. leaving the reader to figure out what that means. However, there is hope. As per research by Cambridge University, an analysis of more than 31 million tweets and half a million Facebook posts uncovered the fact that positive emoticons can be a social media status marker. Talk about bizarre research topics!
There are many other species out there, still being uncovered by the day. Me? I think I am a cross between ‘Reggie Mantle’ and ‘MC’ – reason enough to be expelled from many groups but singularly unfortunate to be permanently rid of any of them, thanks to bouncers and persistent Admins.
It’s time to decide what species you belong to. C’mon, you Pseudo Busybee, I am still waiting for your reply!
Meanwhile, let me attend to another ‘war of verse’ which has broken out in our old boys’ group. This time, I am playing Peacekeeper.
©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2016. All rights reserved. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on my Twitter handle @realkaypius. Views are personal.
Cover image courtesy: www.conversationsforabetterworld.com