The WhatsApp Hold

3 years ago, I got rid of my main Facebook account. Instagram, about 18 months ago. Among Facebook’s troika of apps that have had a hold on my life, only WhatsApp remains and it’s proving the trickiest to get rid off.

Over the last year or so, I have managed to convince family to talk to me either on Telegram, Signal or iMessage. It’s been tough going; I often don’t get to participate or hear of things because I am the outlier and it’s a chore for them to tell me via non-WhatsApp methods. But I am stubborn and insistent enough for this to work.

It’s been harder to negotiate this with friends. Most of them are on Telegram or Signal, but their first choice of contact remains WhatsApp. Things get testy when I don’t respond there because I choose not to. I reply to them on the other apps with the required context, but of course they don’t check these often. Then there are groups formed with an extended set of friends and other folk. These are less important to me and I wouldn’t miss much if I left, but some groups have really good conversations that have led to lots of learning and introspection.

The trickiest bunch to figure out is work related. Not my colleagues, who thankfully have remained steadfastly email first, but the extended, external set of people my job requires me to work with. Most Indians have a poor sense of communication boundaries, so even if you insist that you are to be reached only via email, you will be reached via whatever method is convenient to them. And that is almost always WhatsApp. On many occasions, I chose not to respond to these messages, but all that it did was to cause friction and make work difficult. So I gave up and started responding, with constant reminders to switch elsewhere.

There’s a constant nag in my head that I should go nuclear and delete the account and let those who really want to reach out to me figure it out. But I fear that most people will simply not take that effort and that without those conversations I will be poorer.

I wish there were easier answers to this.