There are days when WhatsApp seems to rule my life. Not my work diary, nor my To Do list, curated into “Must”, “Should” and “Feck it” sections, nor the rigid lists from exercise class to shopping.
OK, so I’m organised. Super-organised, maybe, if you ask some people. Hyper-pedantic if you listen to those who see time as a concept and fixed arrangements as a suggestion.
I’m constantly distracted by one of the infernal, ubiquitous WhatsApp groups I (mostly inadvertently) find myself grouped on.
“You’ve been added to John’s 50th Birthday!”, I’ll be told, or “Mary’s Dinner”, or “Cork Trip”, “Collection for Peter’s leaving do” or “Neighbourhood action against foxes” group.
I’m not joking about these, by the way.
I’ve turned off notifications; no easy feat, let me tell you. So now I when I pop on, I, depressingly, find 35 new notifications for the trip, 15 for the gift and eight for a dinner where nobody can decide on a restaurant.
As far as etiquette goes, it seems nobody has got the memo.
Here’s a thread from one particular local community group: “Does anybody know when the garda station opens?”. Benign query, right?
There’s no suggestion that the writer is lying face down in a pool of blood, needing urgent attention from the boys in blue. The first eight responses go something like, “No, sorry”, ”No, me neither”, “Oh, sorry Joan, I don’t”, “No”, “Oops, no, sorry”, “Will you let me know when you find out as Barry’s passport is out and we’re going to France next month”, “Me too, thanks”, and “No idea”.
Before you know it, even if someone randomly knew that in fact, it was 9am except on Tuesdays, you’d never find the answer you needed in the ensuing cacophony of nonsense.
School parents’ groups, I am reliably informed, are the absolute worst. “Does anybody have the Irish homework for Ms Murray’s class?”, followed by 26 “No, sorry”, several “There was homework?” and a handful of “page 16 and a poem I think”, one “Caoimhe has measles and wasn’t in” and typically a smug, “we don’t believe in compulsory Irish”.
Therein follows a slew of political, social and psychological commentary on everything from the teaching of Irish, pointlessness of homework to remedies for measles which would populate a phone-in radio show for a week.
And the cross-contamination of groups! There’s “Family”, which could be just your kids, your siblings, or in-laws, or parents but why have one when you can have four, or 14? You find yourself WhatsApping the same people in several groups, often about the same thing. And that’s before the horror of WhatsApping the wrong group about something only the other lot should be privy to.
Leaving is, of course, fraught with social faux-pas.
It’s public, for a start, and immediately questioned.
“R U OK hun?” through several private messages. And before long, what do you know, there’s a “Is Sinead OK?” WhatsApp group set up.
The birthday’s over, the trip’s off, and we’ve had the dinner.
Can I leave now, please?