According to Jan Koum, the co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging platform with Brian Action, the main reason behind the idea of developing this app was to stop missing out on important phone calls. The idea came after buying his first smartphone (iPhone). He got annoyed for his inability to make his friends know when he wasn’t available or busy working. It’s because of this challenge that the two friends sat down to build this application that eventually helped people know whether they were accessible or not through the feature “Status”.
Initially, the WhatsApp messaging application did not become recognised after its launch in 2009, although it was such a great invention that would help people in various ways. Later, it became popular and in 2014, it had over 400 million users worldwide because of its good interface and ability to do away with the traditional SMS that people were using. It was at that time when Facebook developed a burning interest to acquire it at over $19 billion. This transaction became one of the most expensive deals in the history of technology.
But How Do People Use WhatsApp Messaging Platform? And How Do You Utilise It?
Most people, nowadays, use the WhatsApp messaging platform in ways different from what the co-founders had at the time of building it. When I did some simple research, I noticed that they use it in the following ways:
♣ Messaging platform
People use WhatsApp to send and receive messages, images, audio and videos on their smartphones. This service helps them to connect instantly with their friends and family members worldwide at a moderate cost.
♣ Social media network
Although most people regard WhatsApp as a messaging service, currently its “Group” function allows users to group chat with 256 people at the same time. This function makes it work more like a social media network than a traditional messaging app.
♣ Voice calling
The voice calling function enables people to call their contacts using WhatsApp for free, even if they are in a different country. This function uses an internet connection and not your cellular voice minutes.
♣ Conducting business
WhatsApp officially launched the WhatsApp business with the sole purpose of connecting businesses with customers. Although it works in the same way as the standard version, it’s aimed at helping small business owners rather than friends and family.
The services provided by WhatsApp are really good if used properly. The intentions are sounding. However, the number of people that are misusing it is increasing, creating yet other worrying challenges in the societies in which we live.
What Are the Challenges of the WhatsApp Messaging Platform?
I believe you may have noticed some of the challenges, but you may not have reflected on their impact on you, your family and the entire society. I would like, therefore, to share some of them with you so that you can participate in helping others to avoid falling victim to them.
1. Exposure to Dangerous Viral Information
My observation on this number one challenge is that about 5 out of 10 people with smartphones in Uganda share phonographic information in form of videos, audio and images. While it’s true that child pornography is banned on WhatsApp, adult pornography is acceptable. This opening has made it possible for young adults to create groups where they share pornographic images and videos. This content, in many cases, goes viral and you find it almost on everyone’s phone. Exposure to pornography is so dangerous, especially to the young generation.
♦ It distorts the mind. It changes your attitude and perception of the nature of sexual intercourse. Men, especially, who habitually watch it develop abnormal sexual acts like masturbation, sexual aggression and sometimes even rape. They begin to consider women as sexual objects who are there only for their pleasure.
♦ It distorts the body. Pornography is so addictive that people who look at it all the time get taken up by it. You will find them thinking and talking about nothing else but pornography. And when you get so much indulged in it, you risk getting sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.
♦ It distorts the heart. It affects people’s emotional lives. They feel less satisfied with their sexual relations and less attached to their partners. Adolescents who habitually watch it feel ashamed and get reduced self-confidence.
2. Overindulgence in WhatsApp Stops People from Spending their Time Meaningfully
I have observed that most young people in Uganda spend over 75% of their time on WhatsApp. Isn’t that dangerous to our society? It’s, indeed, a serious challenge because it diverts people from engaging themselves to what will help them to become financially secure. They instead spend more time on their time exchanging messages, viewing videos and listening to audio.
Sometime back, one of my friends asked me to give a temporary job to her son who was by then at the University. I spent three months with him. Surprisingly, a person who came to work with a monthly salary paid to him, spent 75% of his time on WhatsApp every day. He could work for 15 minutes and then check on his WhatsApp for like 20 minutes. And that’s how he spent his days without significant concentration on the daily tasks entrusted to him.
This is the behaviour of most young people as regards WhatsApp. But you need to know that you will never recover the time you lose. And lost time is lost opportunities and lost money. Secondly, if WhatsApp diverts you from thinking about and doing what will help you in future, then it’s better to think twice. People who make money or become triumphant in anything spend most of their time on tasks that eventually lead them to success.
I use WhatsApp for mainly business. Surely, I don’t miss out on any business communication. It helps me share samples of my products with prospective clients and it does wonders in the progress of my business. Though I also use WhatsApp for connecting with friends and family. I give this aspect little time and this must be outside work. What about you?
3. Making False Information Go Viral
Rumour mongering is rampant on WhatsApp. People with nothing to do come up with false content which they forward to users in their WhatsApp groups. Such rumours can cause trouble for individuals.
One day, I received a WhatsApp audio at the time when Bobi Wine (Ugandan musician) had issues of ownership of the land (where he has a beach) with Buganda Land Board. Some young lady recorded herself throwing unbecoming words to the Kabaka of Buganda. I got so disturbed and felt ashamed listening to such nonsense being said on an important and respectable person. I just deleted it. But I had listened to it a bit and, certainly, many other people did.
In another incident, a video spread about one wealthy Ugandan woman playing sex with a young man abroad. The creators of this video script wanted to tarnish her name. It went viral and became a topic for over a long time.
4. Privacy Issues
Never think that when you send a message of a private nature, it cannot get into the hands of the people you wouldn’t want to know. It all depends upon the recipient’s confidentiality levels. The ease with which people share information on WhatsApp makes it so attempting for someone to distribute sensitive information to their contacts.
5. Unplanned Expenditure
To use WhatsApp, you have to spend money on buying data to access the internet on your smartphone. In Uganda, you also pay tax every day, levied from people who use social media. That’s little money to an ordinary Ugandan.
If you are good at Mathematics, you will realise that for your WhatsApp to be active daily, you will pay the government UGX 73,000 (equivalent to USD 19.50) every year. I buy a data package of 9GB worth UGX 30,000 (equivalent to USD 8.00) per month, which is UGX 360,000 (USD 96). This means that a Ugandan whose WhatsApp is active 24 hours spends over USD 115.50 a year.
If you have young people who are dependent on you and they don’t have a source of income, you will be the one to meet their WhatsApp budget. And if you consider the money you lose, you will get astonished to find it in millions a year. I have tested it with one of my daughters. And there is a time I bought for her 9GB valued at $8.00, but instead of using it for one month as I had anticipated, she spent it in two days. Ladies are big spenders on WhatsApp because of their gossiping nature.
How do you use the WhatsApp messaging platform? Let me again ask you the same question as I conclude this post. If you find yourself faced with the above challenges, then it’s the right time you changed your ways because it can eat you up if you’re not careful. That said, WhatsApp is an app that has changed the way we relate with friends and the way we conduct business. If you utilise it rightly, it’s an excellent invention in modern times.