Those WhatsApp blue ticks can be tricky for some of us, in more ways than one
It’s no surprise that millennials are constantly on their phones. WhatsApp, iMessage, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, there are tons of options where you can reach out to friends, family and co-workers.
Gone are the days when you sent a text for two rupees per message and waited for the other person to respond immediately, it’s the era of WhatsApp blue ticks, instant responses and read receipts
More often than not, if the person was occupied and texted back a few hours later, “babe, sorry ammi ne kaamon ke liye bheja tha“, you’d be a little more understanding. After all, the person has things other than speaking to you 24/7. It’s okay, hojaata hai. But with 4g packages being so economical (I subscribe to a weekly 10 GB package for Rs 200 only), you’re basically reachable on-the-go. And that’s great, your parents can constantly keep tabs on you, your boyfriend won’t freak out and you can browse through memes while in an elevator.
But, are those WhatsApp blue ticks really adding to another form of anxiety?
For me, they really did. Working in the media, I’m being constantly bombarded with information but more so, it’s a personality trait. For as long as I remember, I’ve had a tick keeping up to date with social media apps. When Snapchat came out, I decided to master beautifully crafted snap stories with art and games and the works. I was a late adapter to Instagram but soon, I cracked the code to understand how users respond to content. Recently, I monitored my mobile use and it was a whopping 9 hours average per week. Which is…insane. But nothing, and I mean nothing matched my anxiety when someone texted me on WhatsApp or DM-ed me over Twitter. Being the people pleaser that I am, I was almost always available to respond to questions, enquiries or even random LMAO moments. I’m currently part of not one, not two but FIFTEEN WhatsApp groups and that’s hella crazy.
Shit had to hit the fan at some point.
I found myself struggling with crippling anxiety whenever a co-worker texted me; am I allowed to be online on WhatsApp without responding to them right away? If I read the message and don’t respond until tomorrow, will I be written off as the bitch who just ain’t got the time? Would it reflect that I’m unprofessional? PR personnel over PR personnel would flood my WhatsApp with invites and I would find myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of these messages, day in and day out. Top this off with my weird OCD that has to get rid of all notifications and you have a recipe for disaster. I would find myself reading messages and forgetting to respond.
There have been multiple situations when the WhatsApp blue ticks have gotten me into deep trouble and eventually paved way for me removing my read receipts.
One such situation involves a friend in the middle of emotional turmoil while I was driving. My phone kept buzzing with messages of the said meltdown and understandably, she was going through a very terrible situation. But hey, I was driving. My obsession with responding to her ASAP, offering comfort with fickle words like, “don’t worry, it’s gonna be just fine” was near to impossible in this particular moment. Of course, I couldn’t help myself, I kept reading. Fast-forward half an hour and I had brewed myself a storm. What followed were some very harsh words around having much more important things to do than be emotionally available for your friend. We didn’t speak for days. While this spat may not have been a disaster of epic proportions, it really had me stop and think for a second. The blue double ticks had royally fucked me over.
Think about it. There’s a gut-wrenching, heart throbbing moment that follows almost immediately when you see that someone may have read your message but thought it to be so inconsequential, so unimportant that they put it away.
Did I do something wrong, you ask? I thought we were good friends? Then follows the insane amount of anger and frustration at their AUDACITY. How dare they reduce you to one of those people they don’t respond to right away? HOW DARE THEY CLUB YOU WITH THOSE PEASANTS? There are a whole lot of stories that pop in your head trying to come up with why they did what they did. You end up sending a bunch of texts, trying to illicit a response. So much so that when they finally get back to you, what almost always happens is a whole lot of misery and a fight just waiting to happen.
On the flip side, if you’re the one ghosting someone else, you are taken over by immense amount of guilt. There are so many excuses going through your head immediately when you finally get the chance to reply
“Sorry man, I was in the shower”
“I was in the middle of a call, what’s up?”
“Yaar mera phone dead hogaya tha..”
Why do I have to succumb to this?
I spoke to my therapist about my need to be constantly at peoples’ beck and call – be it professionally or in my personal relationships. We soon realized that I had only so much energy to disperse to the world and I should really focus on my own mental health. The crippling anxiety started seeping into my life on the daily. I would find myself mentally taking laps in the anxiety pool even if I were late to a coffee meetup with friends by 5 minutes.
Something that was supposed to give me joy ended up being a cause of immense discomfort.
While that would be a conversation for another time, there were small tweaks in my routine that would truly improve my quality of life. She suggested that I needed to take some time off as far as social media and my phone were concerned. This is what it would look like:
- After work hours, I would not engage with work related personnel in my life, unless it’s life and death
- I would remove my read receipts
- If I were occupied, I would turn off my mobile data
- I would turn off all my notifications past work hours
Just a week into my new and improved “communication cleanse” and I found myself in, for the lack of a less corny description, a whole new world.
Not that I started to stop and smell the roses but I visibly started freaking out a lot less. Not having my data turned on during trips to the grocery store or the salon helped me cope with my addiction of refreshing my timeline every now and then (and having a legitimate excuse whenever I sent, “sorry just saw this”). Not having my read receipts turned on made my life 10x easier. I wasn’t required to get back to the the cousin who was WAITING on me to impart my 2 cents on whether she should wear the hot pink or the ice blue saari to her farewell. Or my mom asking me whether I had mailed the documents, OR a PR rando asking for details on product pricing. If it’s not urgent enough for you to call me, I just don’t have the time.
I have yet to turn off my notifications, that’s still something I haven’t tried out yet but I’ve been told…that’s the true game changer. Not being bogged down by a barrage of messages and tag requests and retweets and people who have liked your pictures and DMs drastically improves your mental well-being. But hey, it’s kinda, sorta a one-step-at-a-time kind of thing for me.
As someone who has always been quick to reply and respond, I have experienced some level of frustration on both ends. Since our lives become simply overtaken by social media apps to replace real life conversations, I’m wondering how much contact will ever be enough? As my favorite technology-driven show that peeks into our dystopian future, Black Mirror explores, will we eventually morph into a reality that allows our peers and people in our circle to rate us based on our communication? Will breaking a snapstreak that leaves teens perpetually devastated and desperate enough to share their passwords with their friends to post on their behalf result in public shaming? Or leaving someone’s texts on read result in being ostracized?
I guess time will tell.
But for now, I think I’m gonna be a-okay after removing my WhatsApp blue ticks.
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