The fallouts of the pandemic have been widely discussed ever since it hit our fast functioning and every evolving world. At the very start, we started counting what was at stake – the business models, the travel, the plans to collaborate, the onsite jobs and the list went on. However, as it became an extended reality, we realized that for all these dark clouds of loss and challenges, there were some silver linings as well. One that fascinates me the most is a newfound love for feeling connected.
As the pandemic confined people to their homes and made family gatherings or office get-togethers a distant reality, this desire to be social again grew and this was an opportunity for the app giants and technology companies to connect more than ever before with their customers.
For instance, shares of Zoom, an app that not many of us were using, soared to unimaginable heights on the financial exchange. Other innovative firms that addressed the challenges of the pandemic during this time also saw huge growth.
But I want to talk about WhatsApp. This popular messaging medium rapidly cultivated a rather large yet unusual audience across the world. The app became popular for several reasons besides the fact that it is free to use, fast, and offers relative privacy. Whether by choice or not, any industry that relies on effective communication began to use WhatsApp as their new lingua franca. A year into the pandemic even the most sought-after clients signed deals with the thumbs-up emoji. The app kept constant with its users and evolved throughout the pandemic, from payments, disappearing messages, dark mode, and more.
According to Facebook, WhatsApp has immense benefits other than emotive speech. For people working in communications industry, the app’s file sharing and voice notes features are crucial for our daily survival. Since the obligatory response time for texts overtakes that of emails, in context of the lightning speed of client servicing, it is no longer a choice to move with the pace of the emails.
There used to be a wide chasm between my personal and work life before remote working became a thing. And then, instant messaging came along. “Are u there” followed by a trail of “?????” used to be my wife’s signature move. Now, it seems, she has passed this baton to my colleagues, who use at least four question marks to match the urgency.
Radio silence from client side at times prompts me to use two or sometimes three question marks, but I don’t dare to use all five – a gesture that still solely belong to my wife.
Jokes apart, the fact that WhatsApp makes you “always accessible” is not a pretty sight always!
While WhatsApp made life easier, the drawbacks come from the way we tame this communication beast. Personally, I pretend I am still writing emails right down to the habit of using first names while texting. This makes me sound professional and helps me send well-thought-out texts instead of rantings and loads of exclamation marks.
Unlike emails though, I prioritize what needs the most attention and respond to texts in under five minutes, if I can. Some swear by those tiny blue ticks, which notify the sender that their message has been read. For the more traditional-minded, turning off this notification feature offers some semblance of control over the conversation. Mind you, this can annoy the impatient ones out there who will carpet bomb your phone with “heys” and… more question marks”
Soon enough your WhatsApp account may start to resemble the spam folder of a forgotten email address. In that case, consider switching to another phone dedicated to work alone.
What lies beyond the age of WhatsApp is still unknown. In time we might even get better at using it. But that gives rise to a very important question – has the power of emails faded? Has the time come for declaring WhatsApp texts as the official route?
I would say, eventually, even WhatsApp will prove irreplaceable. For whoever thought emails could be a thing of the past?
Yasir Nahim is Account Manager at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. | www.cbpr.me