The Typology and Psychology of WhatsApp Groups

The Typology and Psychology of WhatsApp Groups

I have a love hate relationship with WhatsApp groups. And the choice between love and hate (psychology) is determined entirely by the nature of the group (typology).

The taxonomy of WhatsApp groups are principally as follows:

1.    Genus Familia: One where you are related to the members of the group. These maybe sub classified into Immediate Family (father, mother, siblings), Extended Family (cousins, aunts and uncles) and Maritalis (spouse and in-laws). Immediate and Extended may sometimes be combines. Maritalis, however, might deserve a genus of its own.

2.    Genus Alumnae: One where the group evolves out of having studied in some or the other educational institution – school, college and beyond

3.    Genus Corporatum: One that emerges on account of having worked with an organisation either in the present or the past.  

Each genus exhibits its own set of behaviours and oddities among the members which, have either retained or chased me away from these groups.

Genus Familia – Immediate and/or Extended Family: This is a great way of staying in touch with your near and dear ones. One gets to experience the intense joy of being wished Good Morning and Good Night at various times during your day, as and when the sun rises or sets in the country where your various relatives live. You are in the enviable position of never forgetting anybody’s birthday and you get beautifully designed festival wishes which you then promptly forward to other groups. Of course you might have to deal with the odd uncle in northern Canada who immigrated a generation ago, reprimanding you for your lack of patriotism, if you ever spoke a word against Hinduism (or is it Hindutva?). Depending on whether you lean left or right (well mostly right), you might get into arguments with a numbskull cousin in the US who thinks that Howdy Modi was absolutely the last word in Indo-US foreign relations. Next level really. This might lead to the rest of the Genus Familia turning on you and precipitate your departure from the group. Peace will reign after this exit. But that is another post.

Maritalis is slightly tricky given the sensitivities involved. The behaviours are pretty much the same. But one has to consider carefully what and how one responds to…say a Swarajya Mag article that is presented in the group as the pinnacle of high thinking. The implications of offending an in-law are grave, especially if the dissenter is female. One usually retreats into silence and looks for opportunities to furtively exit the group. Some members of this group are eagerly awaiting when they can exit the group without it being announced as ‘xxx has left’  

Genus Alumnae: Technology has made it possible for us to remain in touch with classmates and buddies with whom we spent our childhood and grew into adulthood, exploring the vastness of the ocean of knowledge and discovering the joys of learning. Except when you realise that some have drowned in the ocean while others have not touched even a drop. The one that drowned aka The Intellectual, will climb the virtual soapbox, delivering a splendid soliloquy every now and then. Often these are met with awkward silences (oh yes! Awkward silences in WhatsApp groups are very much possible), causing said intellectual to get into a loop where it seems as if they are having a debate with themselves. Or there might be a word-off between those known to be adversaries during their student years, with each taking extreme positions and refusing to yield. Any attempt to defuse the situation might cause heads to be bitten off. There is also the possibility of the group hiving off into other groups of more ‘like minded’ members. I speak here chiefly of groups of graduate school alumni. There are school groups as well. But as I have steadfastly refused to join them, I’m unable to comment. Rumour has it that the levels of stupidity one encounters here are unprecedented.

Genus Corporatum: As mentioned, there are two families under this genus. The group of current employment, where you might be in a group of your team or your department. The overt purpose of these groups is to be connected and keep colleagues informed about goings on in one’s industry. But the real purpose is actually to maintain an ongoing process of high quality performance management by keeping your manager (or any manager really), abreast with how wonderful you are at your job with real time data. There is also the additional advantage of stoking some healthy envy…er…competition among your peers.  

The second type of group are those formed to connect with people who we used to work with. This is a risk laden enterprise. Although you may lay down rules and ask that people not waste your time with unnecessary forwards and political statements, nobody actually gives a fig about rules. You meet once again the person who made the lamest jokes at which nobody laughed and realise that they continue to do so. You re-encounter the school boys who never grew up. You re-acquaint yourself with the fake ones, who rose so high that the ground beneath their feet is not visible to them. And you once again gag at those whose sole purpose in life is self aggrandisement. You relive all the reasons which caused you to exit the organisation and decide to stick with the pleasant memories and quit the group.

There is one more emerging genus. The Genus Apartment Complex. I am a recent entrant to this group and do not have sufficient empirical data to be able to theorise about its psychology.

Disclaimer: This is purely a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person or place or WhatsApp group is coincidental.

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