#Love in the #time of #WhatsApp

Messaging apps might be a convenient way to communicate, but think twice before you start relying on them for those matters of the heart.

Love-in-the-time-of-WhatsApp-jpgIt is hard to understand my flat mate sometimes, but this one day she left me entirely stumped.

“He left me at seen. I’m never talking to him again,” she said, and it took me a couple of minutes to realize she was referring to a WhatsApp conversation. The reaction, though, still seemed a touch dramatic. Upon further questioning I found out that `leaving someone at seen’ translates to reading someone’s messages on WhatsApp and then not responding. This, it turned out, can have all kinds of prickly ramifications.

It’s an obvious truth -instant messaging has become the primary mode of communication for many people, especially for those involved in romantic relationships. Rather than ask for your email address, strangers can now openly prod you for your phone number. “Just so that we can WhatsApp,” is the commonly heard excuse. Seemingly innocuous, the mobile messaging app hardly proves to be impersonal in the long run. Psychologists say that services such as WhatsApp can have a direct and sometimes adverse impact on your psyche and your most intimate relationships.

Last seen at splitsville
Clinical psychologist and hypnotherapist Namrata Dagia says, “A lot of the behavior on the part of today’s youth is impulsive. Simply by looking at some images or by swiping left or right, relationships are formed or forgotten. Many couples communicate extensively through WhatsApp and this creates a lot of problems for them. WhatsApp’s `last seen’ feature especially gives rise to negativity, anxiety and suspicion in relationships.”

Examples of misunderstandings are everyday enough to be easily identifiable. A girl texts her boyfriend at 1 am and he says he is almost asleep. The next morning, she checks that his WhatsApp screen was `last seen at’ 3:30 am. She is livid and he has hell to pay. `Why didn’t you respond to my texts? Who were you chatting with?’ -these are just some of the questions that he has to reluctantly answer. The unsuspecting boyfriend finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Disabling the timestamp feature will only lead to further resentment, doubt and a needless barrage of even more indignant queries.

Mirror reader, Priya Bakshi (name changed), claims to have had quite the unforgettable WhatsApp experience. The 28-year-old says, “This guy I was interested in turned out to be a Christian Grey [from Fifty Shades of Grey]. His behavior on WhatsApp proved that.”

Since WhatsApp allows you to see when someone is online, Bakshi found that she had little place to hide. She adds, “He would get very anxious when I would be `online’ and not respond to his texts. He once texted me asking where I was.It just so happened that I had fallen off the local train and was wincing in pain. Of course, I hadn’t replied to his WhatsApp message. I was still reeling from the fall. He went and called my mother to check what had happened to me. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t last very long.”

Bakshi is now getting to know someone who lives in another continent. Aware of the instant messaging pitfalls, she is trying to stay well away from the convenient WhatsApp text. “Even if it is just to say hi, he calls me for a minute.That way he gets to hear my voice and get an instant reaction. There is no room for miscommunication,” she says.

When you’re feeling blue
When WhatsApp introduced their `blue ticks’ feature last year, its 800 million active users were left without that handy `I mustn’t have received your message’ excuse. The double blue ticks signified that your text had been received and read. An already prevalent anxiety only got exacerbated further.

Namrata Dagia elaborates, “The blue ticks are a nuisance. It has made couples very impatient. We expect an immediate response when we see blue ticks. It plays on our psychology and it doesn’t do that in a good way.”

Dr. Kersi Chavda, Consulting Psychiatrist, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar, often hears WhatsApp mentioned by many of his patients. He says, “Someone was once so angry with his partner that he sent compromising pictures of her to her family via WhatsApp. He felt rotten about it afterwards, but the damage had been done. We would perhaps think twice about transmitting images and audio files if the app weren’t free.”

Chavda also urges users to exercise restraint because WhatsApp messages can be legally incriminating. “If I am abusive on WhatsApp, you could use the communication as evidence to file a police complaint against me.” The psychiatrist says that soon messaging apps will not only be the cause for divorce, but also the medium that will enable it.

WhatsApp once defined the many stages of 23-year-old Ishita Goel’s (name changed) love relationship. She first used the app to chat and `sext’ with her boyfriend.Soon her fights had also taken on a textual hue. When Goel finally decided to end her relationship, she decided to `have the talk’ on WhatsApp itself.

The messages she sent were long. She could see the blue ticks, but in the long silence that ensued, her breakup was sealed without ceremony. Closure and romance are both hard things to find, but relationship experts and mental health practitioners all agree on the fact that WhatsApp and other such mobile messaging apps are not the best places where one should look for them.​

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