Beware before you share...

text wise
Last Updated 16 September 2016, 18:32 IST

WhatsApp, the smartphone messaging application, has quietly found its way into all our lives. So much so that my father-in-law now swears by it. According to him, “people no longer log into Facebook.” At 76, he represents today’s generation quite perfectly. “Everyone I want to speak to is on WhatsApp,” he says. And, he is right.

If we go through the contact list on our phones, almost everybody we know is on WhatsApp, including carpenters, plumbers, gardeners and newspaper delivery boys. This messaging tool has liberated the entire generation — even those who are
socially shy are now able to connect and communicate. Not just that, WhatsApp has given us the ability to express ourselves and react to social issues, which has lead to people spreading news and shaping opinions. But what does this social tool bring with it? Well, let’s see.

Personal security

The general belief is that WhatsApp is fairly private. Here’s the truth. Anybody can see your display picture if they just have your phone number. Over enthusiastic people update their profile picture and status every now and then. These pictures can be downloaded or shared with others. Like it is popularly believed, videos, pictures or information of any kind is not really private when it is sent over phone. So, the next time you post a picture or a status message, be careful.

Remember, even if you have set your profile or status to be seen only by your contacts, a whole lot of people are on your phone list. Think before you upload your picture – do you want your carpenter to look at your picture or worse, start sharing it?

Social etiquette

WhatsApp also helps us start group chats and share information with family and friends. Every user has a number of such groups on their phone.

The number one rule that nobody seems to follow while sharing information with groups is avoiding general ‘forward messages’. Life advice, famous quotes and an overload of pictures and videos are clogging everyone’s phone memory. We all need to understand that we can take in only so much of other people’s lives.

The person who forwards facts about ‘rocket science’ may not know the first thing about it. Chances are that he or she did not even read the message before forwarding it. The next time you want to tell the world about your new car, your breakfast or that science paper you glanced at while you were browsing— think again.

When you are part of a group, don't have a prolonged personal conversation with one person. It is annoying for the others to continuously get notifications. If you must, start a private chat.

Social responsibility

A few weeks ago, I received a video captioned ‘Be careful. Never leave your child alone.’ Like any concerned parent would, I pressed play. What unfolded horrified me. The video showed a toy car operator smooching a child. Do we really need to see a video of a kid being violated to know that we need to protect our children from perverts? All logic is lost because, the person who shot the video wanted to capture ‘evidence’ and not rush to the rescue of the child. Have we become so insensitive?

In the name of awareness, a poor child’s nightmare gets uploaded on YouTube and is still garnering views. Every time the video is played, the child gets violated all over again. This brings us to an important rule of thumb – let us all make a conscious effort to become sensitive and responsible while we forward messages. With great power to share comes great responsibility.

(Published 16 September 2016, 15:52 IST)

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