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Moral support and misinformation: What's up with WhatsApp?

The current crisis has seen us turn to WhatsApp more often than ever for reassurance - and for news. That's not always the smart move, writes Yvonne Hogan

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Illustration: Aoife Dooley

Illustration: Aoife Dooley

People pass graffiti reminding people to wash their hands on the window of a bar in Dublin's city centre. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

People pass graffiti reminding people to wash their hands on the window of a bar in Dublin's city centre. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

WhatsApp

WhatsApp

A masked London commuter on his phone last week

A masked London commuter on his phone last week

REUTERS

Stella O'Malley.

Stella O'Malley.

Parenting support: 'It is a brilliant [WhatsApp} group,' says mum-of-one Karen Murphy. 'I am on it every other day if not every day. There can be anything from 20 to 150 messages a day'. Photo: Mark Condren

Parenting support: 'It is a brilliant [WhatsApp} group,' says mum-of-one Karen Murphy. 'I am on it every other day if not every day. There can be anything from 20 to 150 messages a day'. Photo: Mark Condren

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Illustration: Aoife Dooley

WhatsApp. It is the best of us, and the worst of us. It is a place where we can chat instantly with family across continents, share jokes with old school friends, arrange holidays and weddings and dinner dates. It unites such disparate strangers as the parents of children attending the same school, sports club, scouts group. It allows school friends, college friends, old work friends to stay in touch long after they have moved out of each other's day-to-day lives. It is no overstatement to say that, in the 11 years since the encrypted messaging platform was invented by two former Yahoo employees, it has revolutionised how we communicate.

And boy do we communicate. Last month WhatsApp hit two billion users globally. Here in Ireland, according to the latest Ipsos MRBI Social Messaging Quarterly, 79pc of Irish adults have WhatsApp on their phones, and three quarters use it daily.

And, as we become increasingly isolated within our own homes ahead of the anticipated surge in Civid-19 infections, the numbers will continue to rise. Because as a mechanism for staying in touch and disseminating information - and misinformation, WhatsApp is peerless.