Before coming to Lebanon, I was a social media virgin, resolutely resisting all its advances. But we were advised that it would be a sensible, practical move while here to be on WhatsApp, and so I allowed myself to be deflowered.
It certainly has its advantages. It allows you to find out what is going on, rather than being a social pariah, and to make (and just as frequently break) arrangements – we would not have enjoyed, or even know about, the beers at Coop d’Etat without it. Let alone the practicalities – eg who is teaching what, and when. But, oh the downside! Oh, What’sApp, how I do not love thee; let me count the ways.
- The desperate, relentless, mind-blowing triviality. Not just the GIFs and the video clips, but the jokes and the barbs and the putdowns and the awesomes. Frequently hugely entertaining, there’s no denying. But all that time, dripping away…
- Its assault upon language. Not just the LOLs (let alone the LOOOOOLs) but the rns, the wtfs, the use of u as second person singular, the HAHAHAs. I know why, of course I do (see “Mechanics” below) but to see the language of Shakespeare (let alone JK Rowling) bastardised in such a way. And as for those little yellow faces with their ridiculous expressions…
- The mechanics (see also “Texting”). I am what I believe is called a “pecker”, phone in one hand, forefinger of the other jabbing away, desperately trying to locate one tiny square and not any of its neighbours (and all too often failing.) I hear that the human body is changing, evolving in a single generation, and that the opposable thumb, which some say elevates us above the vast majority of our animal brethren, is changing its physical shape. And it takes so blinking long to say anything!
- Perhaps above all is the way it changes people into gadflies, changing their minds in an instant, not committing to anything. People sometimes ask how we managed to do anything before mobile phones, when the answer is simple: we made arrangements and kept to them. I remember my dad in London and my uncle in Norfolk arranging for us all to meet in a pub halfway between. And we did. Once you were out of the house, and its phone in the hallway, that was it.
And yet. And yet.
There is no denying WA’s insidious, addictive attraction. The desperate desire not to miss anything, the security of being one of the herd, the frequently witty contributions that make me LOL (aaagh!) It creeps up on you. And I am as guilty as anyone else (Val too) of stopping whatever else I am doing whenever I hear that funny little whistling tune, and reaching for the phone.
It’s been fun – a holiday romance, a summer fling. But it can’t last, and I don’t want it to. When I get back to England I shall divorce myself from WA (or more likely get Val to do it for me, since I don’t know how) and return to being cheerfully, happily, blissfully out of touch at the bottom of the garden.