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Why I quit WhatsApp

marcelocg profile image Marcelo Gonçalves Originally published at Medium on ・3 min read

Why I quit WhatsApp in favor of productivity (and sanity)

Photo by Jesper on Flickr

WhatsApp is indeed a great communication tool. It provides fast talking, immediate responses, relatively large group conversations, (almost) free voice chatting and more. It’s a great way of sharing instant shots, selfies, short videos and voice messages. All these things in near real time. You send a message and the recipient gets it in a matter of a sub-second.

But all these features turned WhatsApp into a problem for me. Every conversation call for immediate attention. This mean interruption. And the immediateness of instant messaging turns it all into a bigger problem: anxiety! I’ll expand on that.

Interruption loop

The very nature of WhatsApp (and other apps alike) communication is the instant conversation. It’s not meant to be left to for follow up or later answering. When one sends a direct message via an instant messaging app, the expected behavior is that the recipient responds to it right away.

But at least for me this is not always possible. In fact, it’s almost never the case. Most of the time I want to concentrate on some task that needs to be completed, work related or not. Every instant messaging app uses notification popups and sounds in order to achieve its goal of being instant.

Here comes the first problem. These notifications cause an urge to check for the messages, not to speak of curiosity. And there you go interrupt what you are doing. You see a notification, open the app, check the messages, respond to some, smile at others, watch a video and go back to work. And in no time that notification pops up again. Repeat that all day long. Bye bye productivity.

Induced Anxiety

Ok, someone could say you can simply let it there. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing to answer your WhatsApp messages. Fine, but even if you don’t go read or respond to the incoming messages you know they are still there waiting.

Here comes the second problem. This situation causes anxiety. As soon as the notification arrives you already know there is an action required from you. There is something pending. It starts a background job on your brain that tells you someone could be trying to talk to you.

Come on, there is no way to really focus on a task when you are unconsciously wanting or thinking of other pending stuff (have you heard of Getting Things Done?). Furthermore, what’s the point in using an instant messaging app if you’re not using it’s instant messaging feature? There are better tools to help you handle this scenario.

Freedom

Leaving WhatsApp apart has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve done to myself recently. Small talk overload, useless media flood, tons of porn, flamed discussions about soccer and politics. Of course these things are not application’s fault. People who make bad use of these tech resources make me run away. Although I have nothing against WhatsApp or any other instant messaging app, I’m now free from all that bullshit.

Now I’m back to e-mail and phone based communication. It’s way better suited for the asynchronous communication I need to maintain focus. You have something to ask me or show me? Send me an e-mail. You need instant, online confirmation from me? Call me by phone.

It’s only one week since I uninstalled WhatsApp from my phone and the results have been impressively good. Not only my concentration power has recovered a lot but also now I can dedicate more time to get up to date with my Pocket reading queue, finish some Udemy game dev courses and even work on my photography post production.

Don’t worry I still use Slack, Twitter, Trello, Freenode for professional and educational communication.

This post was originally published on medium.com

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marcelocg profile

Marcelo Gonçalves

@marcelocg

Long term Java backend developer interested in microservices, DevOps, mobile dev, game dev, photography, sound design, synthesizers, photography, drawing, habits formation and podcasts.

Discussion

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My social media is largely based around Internet Relay Chat (IRC), the granddaddy of all instant messaging; in fact, I basically live in Freenode.

I find that sometimes it can offer similar distractions, but surprisingly, it isn't nearly as vortex-like as more modern chat platforms, or even many asynchronous platforms like Facebook and Twitter. I think this is because of a decades old IRC cultural expectation:

People have lives! Ask and lurk.

Most experienced IRCers use tools like MemoServ, chat relays (so they can read back over logs when they eventually get around to IRC), and bots with asyncronous message transfer (like Supybot's !tell command.)

Besides this, there are a myraid of well-entrenched ways one can control their notifications. I get alerts every time activity happens in one or two important rooms I care about, ignore alerts in a few I rarely use, and just keep half an eye on my favorite "water cooler" type rooms. If someone says my name, I'll usually answer within a few minutes...or maybe I won't, and that's culturally normal in IRC.

In short, the expectation is that presence of nick != presence of person. Most alumni IRCers "lurk", often in several dozen channels at once. Personally, I can be found in over two dozen rooms across two networks, and I'm considered a spring chicken by IRC standards.

We can easily tell when people are coming from other chat platforms, because they demand immediate answers. Sooner or later, they either (a) quit in frustration, or (b) get used to the culture and curb their impatience.

Combining the factors of culture and technology, I've found IRC to be the lowest anxiety, highest productivity form of internet-based social interaction I've ever encountered. Maybe that's why this joke continues to be so true:

XKCD: Team Chat

IRC is the oldest, most culturally developed, most stable, least productivity-sucking social medium on the internet. (Actual community friendliness depends on the network and room, but where isn't that true?)

Truth be told, if we ever can merge consciousness, I'll be that guy.

 

You can also add Zangi for professional and educational communication, in addition, it is secure and the messages are never kept in servers.