ONE OF THE MAJOR PROBLEMS WHATSAPP USERS EXPERIENCE IS THE NUISANCE OF FORWARDS . The forward has the name (often just the mobile number) of only the person forwarding and not of the original writer. When and where it originated remains unknown.
So there is no way to cross check the authenticity of the message or even know the author’s name. A beautiful piece on growing up (Growing Up in Information Age, Feb. 3), received on W-App, was posted on this blog with request to trace the writer. Till today no one responded the blog or to WhatsApp messages about it.
That could also be because no one reads them. You can ‘like’ a blog post or fwd a message without reading.
You receive a fwd about a school girl missing. With all good intentions, you forward it to every person and group in your contacts, reaching about a thousand people, who in turn, wanting to help, send it to hundreds more. Soon a million or more get it. Not one may have read it in full. Where is the time? (see Where Is The Time? Jan 13 post)
What they do not know, however, is that the ‘girl missing’ message originated years ago and took its own time reaching you and that the girl, back home next day, is a happily married young woman now. Lists of possible blood donors or job openings do the rounds for years. Some of the donors are dead or have relocated. The jobs were filled long back.
The posts were ‘Forwarded as received’.
These are well-meaning good forwards. Jokes which you forwarded months or years ago do a full circle and come back to you. Some people also derive a thrill from sending out fake news or prank messages. They too are ‘forwarded as received’.
There are people who send messages about registering for receiving an IPhone or some such thing free. Told to fwd it to as many as you can, you do. Those who click on the link in may reach a malicious site which will use their contact numbers for hacking, phishing or planting malware in mobile phones. It is a dangerous game. I will deal with it tomorrow.
And then there are the modern versions of those old chain letters. “Forward his to then and ask them to forward to ten more.” You are promised something godd will happen to you immediately. Worse, some of these threaten a catostrophe will bit you if you don’t.
Though not used to taking carbonated drinks, I bought a few cans of them recently after receiving a post that anyone drinking a Pepsi or a Coke after taking a Polo will die within seconds. I repeated this when another post promised the same after taking some other condiment.
It is not only after failure of being fed up with life that one may want to die. Everything went well so far; why wait till things go wrong? Why not say goodbye when the going is good – and that too with only a few seconds of suffering? Bhishmacharya’s unique gift, minus the bed of arrows, a la Mahabharata.
But I am still alive. When I ‘Apped’ the kindly lady who messaged me about this, she said, “Oh, I just forwarded it as received. It must be some rival’s campaign against Polo. Or against Pepsi,” she said, perhaps disappointed it was not true.
WhatsApp is the place where you can create remedies for the deadliest of diseases and cure dreaded ailments without the trouble of laborious, painstaking and long research. Not a week passes without someone holding forth on how to prevent cancer. Heart attacks are a favourite of many of those who post on this platform.
Thousands of home remedies are posted every day. A very popular topic is the virtues of drinking water, or hot water, immediately on waking up. It may be true. It may not be. It was only “forwarded as received.”
The most favoured forwards are jokes. They may be excellent or silly, really rib-tickling or vulgar. Some you have read for the nthtime and some just made up. But jokes are jokes. It is good to laugh. Jest what the doctor ordered. ‘Pappu jokes’ were created a dozen a day, but the season seams to have ended. ‘Feku’ jokes came, but could not match those about ‘Pappu’ Rahul.
The ‘Bhaktas’ had their day. ‘Dynasty Devotees’ are trying to catch up. They realised, too late, that the ‘uneducated pracharak of old-fashioned orthodox RSS and communal BJP’ used modern technology and social media far better than the globetrotting, foreign- educated, Congress-propped ‘youth icon,’ surrounded by sycophants loyal to one family. The game was played more on W-App than on Twitter, You Tube or Facebook.
WhatsApp also circulated widely some really touching stories, memorable poems and learned lessons on life and relationships. Just a a few years ago we could not have get so many excellent write-ups on everything under the sun. But does anyone read?
In some groups so many messages are posted that one wonders if some members do nothing else for hours together. Downloading slowly all videos and photos and deleting health-tips, greetings and stale jokes to make place for new ones and forwarding most takes up the whole day.
True some of the forwards are really readable, informative or even touching. Almost every week I receive long touching posts about the plight of the aged and their loneliness when the children have “flown the nest” in search of better careers. Some of them were worth preserving for possible use in the book on the problems of ‘Coming of (Old)Age in India’ (with apologies to Margaret Mead), which I had planned. I abandoned it as no one reads anymore.
People message you and urge you to forward. You do. No thinking, no checking. Forwarded as received. A message can reach millions of people in a short time. If each recipient forwards it to all his or her groups. Some want to test it. Some are thrilled that it does. Many did not think; they forwarded it as received.
It is free. In India that matters.