If we can overcome the urge to want to make a point and to be seen as being right, every single time, we will have learnt the art of intelligent living.
Yesterday, I posted this Prayer on my personal Facebook Wall:
Grant us this day, and ever after, this Prayer…
Disable Forwarding Privileges on WhatsApp
And give us Sense and Sensibility among our WhatsApp Groups
And grant people the compassion so that they don’t add us back when we have quit a WhatsApp Group
And, through all of this, make this digital world a better place for us to leave behind for our children, and their children…
PS: Even if you like this status, please don’t forward it…:) 🙂 :)!!!
It was posted half in jest. And half out of concern.
I am part of very few WhatsApp Groups. Out of these, a majority are well-regulated, non-spamming Groups. Some are virulently spamming and so, I ignore the spam in them and scoop out only relevant messages. In one Group that I am part of, the Admins are making a valiant effort to invite people to pause and reflect before they spam. They are encouraging self-regulation and sensitivity rather than enforcing discipline with non-negotiable rules.
It is in watching their struggle that I was inspired to write this Prayer yesterday and this blogpost today.
Over a drink last night, I thought through deeply about what we can learn about human behavior and about ourselves while being part of WhatsApp Groups – spamming, non-spamming, whatever kind!
I personally don’t read forwards, jokes and spam memes (including festival wishes). I don’t believe in anything that’s not personal. If it lacks a personal touch – including stuff that comes over email/bccs) – it gets trashed by me instantaneously. In fact, my WhatsApp Status message reads thus: “Please don’t send me Jokes and Forwards. Appreciate your kindness. :)” A huge majority of my contacts respect this choice of mine. And I deeply value their sensitivity.
But, of course, I realize that not everyone is the same. Fundamentally, we human beings are very expressive. Introverted is a word that does not really apply to us. Seriously. Even the most “introverted” person is expressing himself or herself through their silence. Silence is a great way to say something – several things in fact! So, because we are expressive, and because not all of us are very powerful conversationalists, over phone or face to face, a platform such as WhatsApp gives us so much space, and opportunity, to say whatever we want to. Sometimes, we may have nothing to say, but WhatsApp is seductive enough to entice us to want to make a statement. A Forward, which has no connection with either the subject being discussed or the core intention of a WhatsApp Group, is someone’s way of seizing the opportunity to make that statement. A meaningless festival meme or joke being forwarded is the person’s way of hollering in the deep, black, endless, digital hole: “Hellooooooow! See, I Forward, Therefore I Am!” Further WhatsApp – more than Facebook – because it is at this time hugely text/image driven and smartphone-based, allows instant gratification on several fronts: you can express yourself by forwarding, you can speak your mind on social, economic, cultural, political and religious issues, you can berate someone, you can take on anyone, argue, debate, and fire your salvos (often your dormant emotions, feelings, opinions a.k.a your dil ki bhadaas) head-on. In a face-to-face debate, a better communicator can win an argument. But on WhatsApp, you can drown someone and their argument with your ability to type faster and, interestingly, purge endlessly. If you observe closely, a pattern you will often find in your Groups is that very combative stances taken on issues by people are purely a function of what they think of you as an individual and has nothing to do with their being objective or issue-based. I chose to exit my school WhatsApp Group for the same reason – people who believed Vaani and I were faking a bankruptcy kept attacking every post of mine, while others watched in ‘dignified’ silence. Initially, I didn’t see the pattern. But when I saw it, I exited because I didn’t want the camaraderie in a school buddies forum to be vitiated by a few people’s opinions of one individual and his Life! So, in summary, WhatsApp to a majority of people is not just a messaging platform. It is the virtual version of the Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park. At least in London, the police intervene when there is a complaint. In a WhatsApp Group, unless the Admins are strict, who is to regulate? And, seriously, no Admin wants more administration responsibilities on their Life’s plate – which is overflowing from so much to do already!
So, how do we live, survive, converse and, if you like, share, in a WhatsApp Group-ridden world?
Here’s what I have learnt to do – take whatever works for you, if it doesn’t, well, trash it! 🙂
#1. To not be in a WhatsApp Group is a personal choice, so exercise it. In essence, this is a leadership moment – decide!
#2. If you choose to stay (if you are being forced to stay, revisit #1), please be sure to stop complaining. Complaining never made anything better. It only makes you bitter.
#3. If you are on a WhatsApp Group that’s stuffed with folks who are Forward Terrorists, you can learn to ignore their posts. Ignoring is an art. Not everything in Life is relevant or requires your attention and focus. And these folks are giving you a great opportunity every single day to learn the art of ignoring all that is not relevant.
#4. Related to #3 are two other arts – the art of not having an opinion and/or the art of not having to share an opinion. The human mind rushes you to want you to have a say in everything. You need not opinionate on everything and in some contexts, even if you have an opinion, it is pointless to voice it. So, simply, learning these two arts, helps you practice patience. A very, very, very important Life skill.
#5. Finally, if someone’s being rude, combative, unnecessarily argumentative, then don’t react. Just be silent. The best way to win any battle is to not fight at all. That’s an art too – and WhatsApp gives you just the right opportunity daily to forgive, forget and move on.
I treat my engagement with the world via WhatsApp as an opportunity to unlearn, learn and share. If my saying anything will create value, if it is an original thought, I share. If not, I remain silent. Yes, I am human too. And so I wish my fellow humans are more sensitive than they are…but then, because I can’t go change the way people are engineered, or the way they think, I lean on this great, spiritual, song from Amar Prem (1972, Shakti Samanta, R.D.Burman, Anand Bakshi, Kishore Kumar) which reminds me that Kuch Toh Log Kahenge…
And this is the way I believe I can live happily, peacefully, in a WhatsApp Group-ridden world!
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