Your phone pings. Nothing new, right? You’ve made a conscious decision not to pander to the multitude of WhatsApp messages bouncing into your mobile every day. It’s probably just another mildly amusing meme from your cousin on the family group. Unless it’s the school parents’ chat – have you forgotten to pay for Lego Club? Or it might be your friend, the one who’s having a really hard time at the moment. It’s no use. You’re now fully distracted and the only cure is to read the message you’ve just received.
Of course, its none of the above. Instead, you’ve just been added to a brand new WhatsApp group chat. Just what you need in your life. Another digital conversation complete with crossed wires and pressure to ‘do stuff.’
WhatsApp, while an easy go-to place to share information and keep the chatter within suitable compartments, has created an overwhelming workload. With more than 2 billion monthly active users globally sending 100 billion messages on the platform every day, replying to the never-ending stream of pings can be a full-time job.
If you spend all day putting off replying until later, suddenly your evening is taken up with WhatsApp admin. For anybody who feels the pressure to instantly reply because of the blue double-tick or for fear of forgetting to reply at all, your whole day is a stop-start motion. It’s becoming increasingly impossible to get from A to B on your other tasks. And let’s face it, the majority of messages are just a load of GIFs, aren’t they?
But rather than being an innocent, free messaging service, psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says WhatsApp shows us how we handle uncertainty. When life feels out of control, sending information, GIFs, jokes and distractions can make us feel proactive. ‘For the person sending material, they can feel both purposeful (which can flatter our ego) as well as momentarily in control,’ she explains. ‘ It is also a way to feel like you’re staying in contact, even though the contact is actually quite impersonal.’
However, if you’re on the receiving end of unexpected or unwelcome material, it can ‘arouse the very sense of helplessness we’re trying to avoid.’
Read on to find out how to hang up the WhatsApp stress so you take notice of the world around you instead of being locked into a screen.
You might feel impolite if you don’t respond to every single meme your friend sends or respond with a crying-laughing emoji each time your mum writes, ‘Haha’. Even tapping a thumbs-up pulls you out of your current reality and into the digital headspace. So face your fears and ask your friends and family to not get offended if you don’t reply. Of course, you won’t ignore important questions, but tell them you’ll be drawing a line before tapping a heart every time they share a fancy food photo or a holiday snap.
Mark As Unread
Yes, you can do this on WhatsApp and not many people know about it. Simply swipe to the right on the message you want to keep as unread and a blue circle will appear to remind you to come back later, when the time suits you. Once you read this message again, the circle will disappear. So if you need more time, just repeat the swipe to the right and tap as unread once more.
Move Over WhatsApp… And Talk
Think about how long you’ve spent typing WhatsApp messages. We’re talking hours. How quickly would that information be communicated if you just spoke on the phone or in person? Sure, in this vast digital world, speaking one-on-one is becoming a thing of the past. We hide behind texting because we’ve forgotten how simple it is to pick up the phone and talk. But the text-era is still young in comparison to how we communicated previously, and it is playing havoc with our mental health. Talking is therapy; an outlet. You’ll not only get what you need from a conversation pronto, but you’ll also have engaged in some much needed human connection.
Think Before You Type
Our devices are specifically designed for instant response and to keep us coming back for more. You read a message, type a reply and press send. Then, oh no! Waves of guilt and anxiety wash through you. Did I say the wrong thing? Was I too harsh? Did that offend? Do I sound snappy? Breathe…Most questions or suggestions don’t require an emergency immediate answer. Remember, your text doesn’t have a tone of voice or a facial expression so it’s not a true conversation. It’s robotic. So before you feel the need to drop everything and give in to the demands of your phone, pause. You might not need to reply at all.