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The Knack

How To Win On WhatsApp

A masterclass in conducting yourself on the world’s largest messaging app – MR PORTER joins the conversation

So you still say things like, “I’ll text you later” or “Call me any time”? Deep sigh. Nobody does that any more. Or, at least, nobody among the one billion users currently plugged into WhatsApp, the world’s most popular mobile messaging app. We are entering an era in which social interaction is increasingly defined by WhatsApp, and in particular the WhatsApp group – a function within the app that allows users to message various curated circles of contacts simultaneously.

Founded in 2009, WhatsApp’s world-conquering significance as a no-frills, free alternative to SMS was highly publicised in 2014 when Facebook bought it for $19.3bn – almost 20 times what it paid for Instagram in 2012. The WhatsApp groups themselves have had a bit of a bad rap in the press, largely because, as they are completely private and, since April 2016, secured with end-to-end encryption, they’ve been used by unpleasant people such as terrorists and, gulp, politicians to organise their nefarious affairs. In Britain’s post-Brexit game of parliamentary “guess who?” earlier this year, Messrs Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson were both said to have had WhatsApp groups dedicated to their political demise.

On the other hand, the WhatsApp group has also empowered people in the developing world (where the user base is particularly strong, and most smartphones come pre-loaded with the software) to communicate and organise without the need for access to computers and email accounts, to the extent that in July this year, the Zimbabwean government attempted to block WhatsApp to stop people from mounting a protest against it.

Meanwhile, on a more domestic level, WhatsApp groups have become the medium of choice for organising stag dos (groan), keeping in touch with extended family (sometimes weird), sharing dating woes (and revolting Tinder pictures), and generally sorting out your social life. Of course, as with any technology in this glorious age of social media, WhatsApp has opened the door to a whole new range of interpersonal anxieties, as users find themselves added to groups full of people they don’t really know (or even like) and subsequently bombarded with random kitten gifs, inappropriate selfies and threats of eternal damnation (from that estranged aunt who always smiles nicely in photos but is secretly disgusted with her relations’ vile, depraved secularity). How to navigate this potential minefield? Allow MR PORTER to offer up the following pointers.


01. Always respond to selfies

If someone posts a selfie to a WhatsApp group (and you know them), it is not only common decency, but compulsory for you to say something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be nice (good advice almost never is), but a blank silence is just too embarrassing for everyone involved.


02. Stick to the topic

If someone invites you to a thread called “My Birthday Bash” or “We Love Man United”, do yourself (and everyone else) a favour, and talk about those things. This avoids the whole affair just being a dreadful free-for-all between people who barely know each other. Which is a bit like the real world really, and goodness knows we’ve had enough of that.

03. Beware the meta-group

Large groups have a tendency to spawn smaller ones, in the inevitable eventuality that someone says something stupid and you want to discuss it with a tighter circle. This, however, can become confusing, and result in embarrassing gaffes. Too many meta groups and you will definitely end up saying something like, “I don’t know what she sees in him but I guess the two oinkers deserve each other” in the group titled “Kirsty and Mike’s Wedding”.

04. Be restrained with emojis

Emojis! Aha! Aren’t they fun? Woo! Hooray! Yes, everyone is aware of all this, but when 100 emojis are stuffed into a person’s username on WhatsApp, they actually cut into the text of the message, making everything you say illegible. Although we suppose this could be a curse or a blessing, depending upon how witty you are.

05. Leave quietly

What goes up must come down. A group joined must be left. But do so with discretion – if you disengage after a flurry of messages from a particularly annoying acquaintance, it might look aggressive or hurt someone’s feelings. Mute the group for eight hours until things have calmed down, and then leave in a period of silence.

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