WhatsApp – have you seen my message?

First things first: I don’t use WhatsApp. I’ve used it a long time ago, before they had decided to take money from their users. Even though it was just some cents, I was and I am not willing to pay for a company which is not willing to speak with its customers, to inform them about future technical plans or recent problems, especially concerning data security. And after being bought by facebook, WhatsApp got even less interesting to me. But that are personal feelings and decisions and not universal. But of course I do use some instant messaging systems, especially Google’s Hangouts.

Now, yesterday WhatsApp introduced some new feature: the blue double checkmarks. The clue about it? As a sending user you now get a three-stage-information about your sent message. First checkmark: message sent from your device. Second checkmark: message received by the target device. And (the new one!) checkmarks turning blue: target user did activate his device, opened the message and read it. That last step is new – and freaking out many users. But why?

Such information in messaging services is not completely new. E.g. Hangouts shows a little face or symbol of your opposite indicating the last message he or she read. And this little symbol’s position is updated each time the user activates this very chat room. The same with facebook: You get information about when you sent the message and when the other one read it. Nothing new at all. Why is it that new to WhatsApp users? And why do they outrage because of more information?

I am not able to answer the first question. Maybe they never thought about these features in other messaging services. Maybe they don’t even use other messaging services than WhatsApp (which is okay). But it is perfectly clear why they hate the new function in WhatsApp. Finally, they all feel the pressure of mobile (and thus permanent) communication.

Just imagine a young couple, being kinda fresh, absolutely fallen in love, not stopping to think about each other for a minute, a second, not even while sleeping. Cute little guys. To be political correct we will call them Person A and Person B, not making any suggestions about their gender. Now, of course they are not able to see each other the whole day. Person A might have to go to work, to university, to school, to a swimming pool, to a private party, wherever, and Person B is not able to join A, because he or she has to do something else and somewhere else. Some years ago they would have used their phones and sent short messages (SMS) to each other. Still remember short messages? Really? Holy, you have to be really old. Okay. But today their mobile devices (let’s call them sPhone for smartPhone) are able to send and receive information and data to and from the internet, being much cheaper than the old short messages used to be. Now A and B can afford to text each other the whole day, sitting in the bus, in the tube, in a course, while working or swimming or showering or whatever. As I mentioned above, A and B have really fallen in love. And so each of them answers instantly when getting a new message.

But now imagine a really, really bad situation: B is writing a very important message to A, maybe something like “I really really really really really love you!” or better “I luv u” or whatever you English guys write for that. Probably using hundreds of emojis at the same time. Of course, this message has been sent a hundred times the last hour, but nevertheless it is really important to B. And B wants A to return this message, of course, to ensure B about A’s feelings for B. Suddenly it happens. A activates his or her sPhone, reads the message – and just the moment A tries to answer the message, A is interrupted by another person talking to him/her. Or being needed for a payment at a checkout. Maybe A had to get off the bus. Or to run for the bus. Or the sPhone fell into the toilet. Think of any other possible situation. In the end, A was not able to respond to the love message, though A has read it.

Phew. Imagine B’s situation! B got two blue checkmarks for the last message! Thus B knows, that the message has been sent, has been received, and – thanks to WhatsApp! – that the message has been read by A. No answer. For seconds. For minutes. For half an hour (okay, the checkout-idea might not hold here anymore). B’s thoughts are completely clear: A has another B! A is betraying B! A hates B! A left B without even telling B! Probably the only thought not coming up into B’s brain is A not having any time to answer. This day is probably the day of their breakup. Thanks to WhatsApp!

Sorry for not taking this too serious. Of course, if you talk to other people, you want them to answer as quick as possible. But never forget: not to have to answer immediately is the biggest and most important advantage of written communication! Usually there are very good reasons for a person not to answer in that very second, even if having had enough time to read the original message. One very plausible and good reason for myself: I am not willing to answer at that moment. There are moments when I read information or read new messages and don’t have any mental capacity left to phrase an answer. If something is really urgent, just ask again. Or wait some days, and if there is still no answer, just ask about it. It might have been a lack of time, a lack of information, or maybe he or she just really forgot about it. Most people don’t refuse to answer because they are mad at you. But humans always tend to believe the very worst. Nice little hobby.

My personal résumé? Take things easier. Don’t make yourself a slave of communication. Try another perspective: As long as he or she does not answer, there is no need for you to write a new message. And that is time won for doing other things, like live, like doing the household, like buying some things, like studying for university exams or anything else. Your life will become much more relaxed. And you as well.