By Sanjay Pinto


Does your WhatsApp folder invariably beat the toilet door every morning? Frankly, it’s now an integral part of our daily ablutions. Often the first task on waking up has been replaced by ‘inbox detox’ – reading and deleting messages. That said, to harp on the upside of this messaging platform would be akin to carrying halwa to Tirunelveli. But we can all do with some WhatsApp etiquette.

Rule 1: While it’s convenient to have groups, always seek permission from your contacts before adding them. Many folks have separate numbers for WhatsApp as opposed to their primary numbers in the public domain. There could be strangers and the number will be visible to others in the group. This is especially applicable to celebrities. Respect their privacy. A broadcast group, on the other hand, is less intrusive, provided the recipients are not bombarded with meaningless content.

Rule 2: If you are part of a group and a message is addressed to you, respond only to the sender. It’s the same logic of the ‘Reply’ and ‘Reply All’ in emails. This is particularly when the content is personal and of no relevance to others in the group. Save them the effort of reading yet another message and having to delete it later. If you are provoked to indulge in a spat, then all the more reason to do it one-on- one. Don’t treat others to tantrums. There is no dearth of that in all our lives.

Rule 3: If an obituary message or information about a member’s illness or hospitalisation is posted, steer clear of forwarding jokes and other inappropriate stuff for at least a few hours, if not the whole day, as a mark of respect and sensitivity. For this, make it a point to skim through the previous messages, so you are clued in on the updates posted.

Rule 4: Your level of humour and creativity may be in sharp contrast to that of your recipients. Spare them smut. Chauvinistic or dark humour may make others uncomfortable, even forcing them to exit. I have prudent, not prudish friends, who run a  parallel ‘sinners’ alumni group! And oh yes, ration those space hogging GIFs and messages that are clearly ‘forwarded many times’.

Rule 5: The disclaimer ‘forwarded as received’ shields you from legal liability as much as an umbrella does during a cyclone! Before you rush in frenzied haste to share a message that may be alarming, do a simple fact check (there are quite a few sites like boom live) lest you end up spreading rumours and panic in the midst of a crisis. Due diligence is the key.

Rule 6: Post relevant content. If you are a part of a gated community group, for instance, use your discretion on what may be of interest to the other members. Don’t use the platform to revel in slanging matches on volatile subjects – political or religious or ideology. Personal marketing or bragging is also a big ‘no.’ Here, common complaints or concerns or community activities or information like flats for rent or a garage sale are welcome.

Rule 7: If you exist in a group, prove it!  Try to at least acknowledge messages addressed to you. Don’t act like a spy just watching what’s transpiring without ever interacting with others. You are not Pegasus!  Even bank accounts that have no transactions for a period are classified as inoperative or dormant accounts. Either participate or exit. A farewell line before you leave may be in order.

Rule 8: There are no awards for smart-alec one liners or clever expressions or exclusive information gleaned from a known source. Plagiarism can be easily detected. Giving credit is the decent thing to do. A simple ‘copied from xxx’ enhances your credibility.

Rule 9: Administrators of groups are like office bearers in Residents’ Welfare Associations. It’s a thankless job. Playing moderator can deprive you of those long shapely nails! Stay cool.  

Rule 10: Ideally, if your name is mentioned in a message, it’s courteous to respond with a salutation of the sender’s name as well. The response ‘tx’ or ‘tks’ to a ‘Happy Birthday, dear XXX’ is downright arrogant. No one is ever that busy.

I must confess that I may have wittingly or unwittingly violated some of these rules. Life is a learning curve, after all. Now, what are you waiting for? Share this piece on your WhatsApp groups. It’s relevant everywhere! Do it. Now!


(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, an Arbitrator, Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)



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