Has WhatsApp Killed Real Conversation?
There was a time when courtship consisted of all-night conversations, whispered under the cover of a blanket over a landline receiver or the cell phone. The randomness of the conversation, the fear of being caught, the shy emotions--they all had their charm. Along came Brian Acton and Jan Koum, and launched a cross platform messaging service that was absolutely free! WhatsApp was born and conversations petered to a slow, dying form.
The introverts are the happiest. Conversations were a painful affair earlier, filled with awkward silences and a fervent wish for the torture to end. WhatsApp is their saviour.
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No longer do they need to rehearse their lines before placing a call, or consult a list of points to keep their end of the talk going, and, more importantly, no longer the need to switch off the phone to avoid calls. They can finally socialize without any actual contact. A few well-chosen words, and they stay connected with almost everyone. No more tongue-tied awkwardness. They can take their own sweet time, review the words typed and be the witty self that often stayed hidden.
And, as one friend quipped, “ When you aren’t really sure what to say, or rather type, a simple emoji takes care of your response! It is pretty win-win all around.”
That’s the other thing people love about WhatsApp texting. The emoticons or ‘emojis’ dress up the text and turn the mundane into fun.
Let’s face it; most conversations are about the humdrum of routine. “Adding an emoji brings an instant smile, even if the person merely texted they were eating noodles! And it feels good to be goofy and childlike sometimes and go overboard with multiple random emojis! Besides, a picture is worth a thousand words!” says Misha.
Remember that one relative who narrated tales of the entire neighbourhood and their aunts? Well, they are now a thing of the past. Their monologues have morphed into frequent WhatsApp updates on the family group, and it is much easier to fake enthusiasm when the person on the other end can’t hear your bored tone.
“We Indians tend to talk a lot about everything and nothing. But often, people do not realize that you don’t share the same level of interest for those meaningless conversations.
Trying to end a conversation is also considered rude. But now, you can text a suitable reply after any length of time and it is acceptable,” enthuses Gauri. Many second that notion--especially mothers who desperately waited for a pause to hang up politely while their kids tried to burn the house down!
Jasleen feels that, while real world conversation has taken a backseat in recent times, WhatsApp is actually a considerable boon. Gauri and she, both, agree that it has brought them closer to their folks. While you may not call your parents every single day or remember to share every little bit when you do, you do keep them successfully clued into everything, because it is easier to just drop a text or forward a heartfelt message or share a picture or a video of their grandkids horsing around.
“Talking about your organic garden seems inconsequential over a call, but share a few pics and they are transported to your backyard, taking pride in your sprawling bhindi vines!,” adds Gauri. And it is not just parents; four cousins living on three separate continents and three disparate time zones can have a crack at the same inane jokes and fun talks via their private chat group on WhatsApp.
From the sporadic yearly emails and the rarer transcontinental calls to multiple posts a day--hat’s the real charm of the WhatsApp chat.
It’s not all death knell for the voice call. though. Meghana asserts that WhatsApp has enabled her to reconnect with lost friends and personalize the experience.
“Even the typical morning and evening greetings tell you that person remembers you. But on the other hand, people have stopped calling at all. That’s not good. We should at least make an effort to call people once in a while. On birthdays and special occasions. I used to do that, but when people don’t respond, you stop making the effort. So while WhatsApp is good to be in constant touch, we should not take it as an alternative to real conversation.”
Abhijit opines similarly. “You can’t equate a WhatsApp chat with real conversation. I have normal conversations outside the digital world all the time. I can talk for hours over the phone with my friends. I even make it a point to call my colleagues rather than text them. It is faster and avoids confusion.”
There are a large number of people who may feel uncomfortable when faced with a call from an acquaintance or a relative, but still crave the intimacy of a call to/from their loved ones. So while there will still be people who will hold sway on WhatsApp to avoid talking to people physically sitting across them, it is safe to say that real-world conversations, while on the decline, will never truly die out.
As Devika puts it, “No non-verbal communication for me. WhatsApp cramps my style!”
By Neyha Hundal