Causes of stress? We all have them. For me, one of the major causes of stress in my life is the tools used to communicate that demand my attention and response. WhatsApp is one of those things.
I recently returned from holiday, having had a tech-free break. I didn’t take my work or personal phones with me, so I wasn’t able to check any messages when I was away. I expected a few when I came back, because that’s normal. Most people in my life who would contact me knew I was not taking a phone away with me, so I assumed there would be some stuff to respond to but not much.
However, I turned on my phone on, on my return home, it had a little meltdown as 207 WhatsApp messages started to appear on it.
To be clear, not 207 individual messages, but messages, pictures, voice notes, and group interaction. All within one app. 207 doesn’t seem like a lot to some, maybe, but for me, it felt overwhelming. I had been added to two groups, with people I didn’t know included in the groups, now with access to my number, I had been included in conversations by people who knew I was away and would not be able to respond, and there was basically so much noise and download on one app, that took me almost 90 minutes to filter through. Some of it was me being tagged in group chats as other people used the group, so I had to wade through lots of messages reply style, not for me, directly to get to the bits aimed at me. Photos, requests, and a lot, a lot of noise. Yes, I know I said that already.
My phone was having a meltdown (and this is just WhatsApp, I also had email, SMS, and other messages to manage too)
Then I had a meltdown.
I left all the conversations I had been added to, or been part of, and I deleted the app. I then sent an SMS message to a handful of people telling them not to use the app, and I walked away from my phone.
WhatsApp is useful, I get that, but it’s become yet another way for people to communicate and demand attention, and chat, and it’s incessant. It’s also a massive invasion of privacy to add people to a group when they may not know everyone, because then everyone has your details. I have been added to a group of 50 people before. It took me about 5 minutes of random messages meant for other people for me to leave the group. I couldn’t cope.
My therapist says that if something is causing me stress and isn’t useful to me, or makes me anxious, then it’s probably something I need to think about ditching. Sounds simple, right?
But everyone uses WhatsApp, and it is a way of communication relied on by lots of people.
Just not me. It makes me anxious, it’s constant.
It is also owned by Facebook, and they soon have plans to amalgamate within Facebook messenger, and Instagram, so not only will it be more noisy it will make people more accessible too. I don’t think that’s always a good thing.
I am kind of operating on a Marie Kondo Kon Mari style basis these days. If something isn’t bringing me joy, I am ditching it.
That includes WhatsApp.
I communicate a lot, I use my phone a lot. But sometimes what is a useful tool, can become a toxic thing. Over-communication can be unhelpful. Feeling like you are being bombarded is hard to manage, and it is an anxiety trigger for me.
Yes, I know you can mute messages, I know you can hide notifications, I know you can leave groups but to me, there is no point in having an app if you are not going to use it or don’t want to use it. I don’t want to mute messages, and I don’t want people to think they can get hold of me there.
I also want to make the point again that adding people to WhatsApp groups with people they don’t know can be an issue. I have used groups myself, but I have never added anyone to a group that didn’t know the other people.
I also currently don’t let my tweenager use WhatsApp – note, the legal age is 13 to use it, she’s not that age yet, and even when she is, I am not sure I want her to be available on an app that’s so easy to use to reach people and share information, and that is so closely linked to Facebook. We shall see.
So, if you have been wondering why you haven’t been able to get hold of me on there, then that’s why.
*Disclaimer. I do have a private WhatsApp account. My mother in law and about four other people who would never dream of adding me to a group chat use it, but you’ll have to sell a kidney to pay me to share it ;)*