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On quitting WhatsApp

Jul 29, 2021

I decided to quit WhatsApp while living in a country where it is installed in 99% of smartphones and is the go-to tool for communication.

WhatsApp is actually a great app: simple, fast, reliable. I just couldn't stand the hyper-connectedness aspect of it. Anyone could reach me through my phone number, including salespeople from services I signed up, who then messaged me trying to push sales. Or that random person who suddenly decided to create a website for his company approached you at nighttime to talk about work. Or that person you recently met that thought it was okay to put you in some group chat.

Recently, when looking at my bank app — known for providing excellent user experience and for revolutionizing banking in Brazil — I noticed a huge, not dismissible card that takes half of my screen, trying to push me into an integration with WhatsApp. No, thanks. I don't want to rely on a single app to do everything, and that's another reason I quit it: they are trying to build the world around it.

Hell, texting is not even good for having proper conversations, let alone doing things like appointing a haircut or sending money. My barber maintains a website where you can schedule a haircut, and I love him for that. You don't need a phone number, or to run a specific OS, or give your information to some company, in order to use it. Everyone in the world with any kind of device could appoint a haircut. The beauty of the internet is being an open, free platform. It's okay to have fenced services like Instagram — where you can't even navigate without an account — but please, don't try to do everything out of it.

WhatsApp depicted on a billboard

Imagine having to use WhatsApp to work. This is actually a sad recent phenomenon: institutions making employees communicate via WhatsApp. This is downright abuse of people's sanity, and I feel sorry for them. This may not be so bad if you use a dedicated mobile phone for work, but few people do. I've recently met a nurse who, after a full workday, has to spend the night answering her boss' questions on WhatsApp.

I've been phone calling people more often and favoring more real experiences. So, instead of trying to reach my neighbor and inviting him to have a beer in the local bar, I just go to the bar, most times to meet him there spontaneously. When I need something delivered from a business that uses WhatsApp instead of a proper delivery app, I just call them, it just works and I still get to listen to the other human being's voice on the other side of the line.

I've since moved to Telegram, which is still a chat app but the attitude around it is different, and the app has features to preserve your mental well-being. It's unusual for people to suddenly approach you there. You can archive chats that you don't want to keep looking at or create separate chat groups. So, if you're forced to join a group for study or work reasons, you can at least put those conversations on a different shelf than, let's say, family contacts.

Sometimes when I mention that I'm not on WhatsApp, people have reacted saying that they wished they could do the same. The thing is: you will find ways to communicate with people that matter to you. We've been doing it for ages before mobile messaging came in. The only reason WhatsApp became so big is that people just conform, and the only way to stop it is to resist.