In July 2017, WhatsApp celebrated its one billion daily active users. According to its blog post, there were 55 billion messages, 4.5 billion photos, and one billion videos being shared every day amongst the WhatsApp users. Founded in 2009, Brian Acton and Jan Koum – the co-founders of WhatsApp – were struggling to make their idea a reality.
The idea of WhatsApp snowballed when Apple, in June 2009, launched push notifications for the apps and other services, enabling users to be able to receive messages even when they were not actively using an app.
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WhatsApp turned out to be a blessing for people looking for something pocket-friendly and also hit the telecom sector pretty hard, forcing them to change their prices and come up with new plans. Its acquisition in 2014 by the social media giant Facebook only added to its value. Incidentally, Facebook has also grown over the years; it reported its monthly active users in the first quarter of 2018 to be over 2.2 billion, up 13 per cent from the previous year, as per a report by Reuters.
However, as much as WhatsApp was a blessing, it also happened to grow a flipside – one that we know of but are reluctant to admit. This contributes largely to why it’s better to stay off WhatsApp. Here are the primary reasons why you should stop using WhatsApp as soon as possible.
We all know the lynchings that took place last year and the year before that. In November 2018, a study by BBC’s Beyond Fake News series found that the nationalism debate in India and cheap mobile data packs were driving the seemingly unstoppable deluge of fake news responsible for causing mob lynchings and deadly attacks on human life.
After pressure by the government of India, WhatsApp had to introduce a ‘forwarded’ label on the forwarded messages and put limitations on the maximum number of users in India, and later in other regions, to make them question the source of information. However, some research firms found this had made no difference as the person who is forwarding can easily put the blame on the last user who sent him/her the text. While many users are aware of the ways of the internet, many tend to be too lazy to verify the facts, which is why WhatsApp has gradually become a rather ‘controversial’ repository of political propaganda and rumours that can cost someone their life. It’s the need of the hour that WhatsApp finds ways to curb it, which we have been witnessing in a horde of promotional materials such as advertisements in India educating people to spot fake news on the platform.
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In May 2016, WhatsApp changed its privacy policies and terms of service while outlining that it shares controlled amount of users’ data with Facebook to develop targeted advertising. Providing opt-out solution gave WhatsApp a safe passage to get out of the privacy debate that recently marred Facebook amid the Cambridge Analytica fiasco. But didn’t Facebook promise the same years ago?
After you install WhatsApp, it mandatorily needs your phone number to validate the registration process with a code, which is only sent to your phone number. This not only limits the device usage as you can only access the messages through your device but also means that WhatsApp will always have to be tethered to your phone – or at least gain access to the device’s SMS storage; it lets other unwanted WhatsApp users know that you are on the app and nothing sort of the block action could help you come out of the situation.
Group chats not only put you in a quagmire if it’s a family group chat or a professional one, it also is a matter of consent. Anyone can add you to group chats without even requiring your permission on the same, which becomes a menace after a while. However, WhatsApp is working on a feature that would make your consent necessary for someone to add you in group chats.
As mentioned above, group chats could be a total menace, especially if it’s a workgroup where colleagues frequently take a detour from what was originally thought will be the purpose for the group chat. The continuous inflow of group chat notifications, even after you mute the group ‘for a year’ doesn’t help you many times. Eventually, you will have to check the group to see what went in the ‘informal’ discussion. Quitting the group after such annoyance can also lead people to hold minor grudges against you.