The day I discovered that I could ‘mute’ WhatsApp groups, I celebrated with mutton biryani. It was a revelation and a liberating one at that. The day I discover that I can ‘exit’ a group without anyone noticing, I will celebrate by eating biryani non-stop for 10 days. I might also take a break from work and go to a hill station, without worrying about annoying WhatsApp notifications that come up just when I’m breathing in cold mountain air.
I know, I can exit a group as and when I please. But what about the family groups that uncles, aunts, and cousins are a part of? And those school groups in which the majority live abroad and tend to have the most animated conversations just when you snuggle into your bed at night? I’ve seen people exit groups and the rest of them go ‘Why did she leave?’ ‘Now she’s being rude’ and so on; while I think, ‘Way to go girl. I wish I had your guts.’
The thing is, most people who are part of these groups are friends and acquaintances to whom I don’t want to seem impolite. As a result, I am haunted by a hundred groups, many of which I forget to mute. A group for a dinner party, a group for a school reunion, a group for a baby being born... If I’ve ever wanted to tear my hair apart in life, it’s because of WhatsApp.
I admit to being excited when I’ve been included in certain groups. But it wears off the moment I open my eyes after a good night’s sleep. I would be bombarded with some 500 messages on the group the next day, and please, I’d do anything but plod through fields and fields of conversation between other people.
Then there are the awkward questions. Recently, I was added to a group that planned a birthday surprise for a friend. As is my habit, I typed not a single message — it’s not that I was not interested in the plan, but these groups and the many ‘enthu cutlets’ in them turn me off. One of them kept sending me private messages. ‘I thought you’d be interested in this’; ‘Why don’t you say something?’... I suddenly felt guilty. Am I being anti-social? But what do I do if I don’t feel up to sending as many emojis as others? What if I don’t want to spend all of my free time sending polite messages to every single group and go to sleep without having read a word of the book I wanted to read?
The family groups are most tricky. Some of them are fun. The cute messages from grandma, the excited messages from mom after she figured out the app for the first time... but the fun ends when you feel obliged to reply; obliged to say something courteous to that aunt who just has to know when you’re ‘settling down’.
There’s a particular group that I am a part of, where members send sexist jokes and have a good laugh, while I contemplate shooting off a nasty response. But I desist, for they’re all seemingly civil men that I have to interact with outside the virtual world. And now, it’s become even more difficult for all of us secret WhatsApp group-muters to co-exist harmoniously with the rest of the world.
The latest ‘@’ update, similar to Facebook, sends a drop-down list of all the names in a group. If someone addresses a message to you using this feature, you will receive a notification despite having muted the group. So, this is it then.
One can never be completely liberated from the trauma of annoying WhatsApp groups. Unless of course, you decide to be a rebel and exit them all. Try it.