Tech Etiquette: The Unwritten Rules For WhatsApp Communication

Let’s face it: WhatsApp is the de-facto form of communication in Ghana. WhatsApp is one of the reasons that text messaging is basically dead. Anybody you know with a telephone number has the WhatsApp application installed on their phone (Unless they have a feature phone). WhatsApp is simple, easy to use and doesn’t take up too much data.

Over the years, WhatsApp has added new features including emojis, Voice calling, Status Updates and  “group chats” where users can form groups and message different people all at once.

But WhatsApp didn’t come with “instructions” or guidance. That is, there were no formal guidelines or rules for how to communicate with people using WhatsApp. We all just picked it up and run with it. But like many apps and services on the internet, there are always “unwritten” rules and WhatsApp is no exception.

We decided to highlight some of these “unwritten” rules that users should be aware of:

1.Don’t “Abandon” A WhatsApp Conversation

Imagine you’re talking to someone in real life and in the middle of the conversation, they just got up and went off somewhere without telling you. Wouldn’t you think that was rude?

The same impoliteness can be manifested when you leave a conversation hanging on WhatsApp. If you’re in the middle of a conversation on WhatsApp, it’s always polite to tell the other person you’re chatting with that you’re going off somewhere and that you’ll talk later.

There are times when you start a conversation and you get interrupted and fail to continue your WhatsApp conversation. Just apologize to the person for responding late and explain the reason for your absence. If possible, you can try to re-engage in the conversation.

But don’t abruptly leave without telling the person on the other end.

2. Don’t Talk/Text Over Each Other

Image Credit: The Next Web

Just like any real life conversation, you don’t talk over a person while they’re in a middle of talking. Those same principles can apply to WhatsApp. There’s no point in texting each other at the same time. It can lead to an uneven conversation.

Thankfully, WhatsApp has made it convenient for users to see when someone is typing a message. You’ll see the notification in the WhatsApp chat window just like in the above image.

Users should be aware of this feature and use it when they’re having conversations on WhatsApp. It’s not really free-flowing when everyone is typing and sending messages all at the same time.

3. Language And Courtesy

WhatsApp can feel informal but if you’re talking to a stranger or a contact, there’s no reason not to be courteous. A “Good Morning” or “Good evening” greeting is always welcome. You should also watch out for your short hand writing; it depends on the person you’re talking to.

3. Ground Rules in WhatsApp Groups

This is a pain point for me. I think WhatsApp groups are fine but sometimes they can be ineffective with large groups of people (See: WhatsApp Groups Aren’t Effective For Group Communication).

These are some ground rules I wish my people followed when dealing with WhatsApp groups:

  • Mind the time: If you want to take part in a group discussion but it’s late, just keep your thoughts and post it in the morning. No reason to wake people with your opinion about why Superman is better than Batman. Believe me, it can wait.
  • Ask before adding someone to the group: If you’re going to add someone to a WhatsApp group, it would be nice to give them a heads up or even ask whether they want to be part of the group.
  • If the conversation is not relevant to the group, DON’T POST IT THERE! There are far too many “irrelevant” topics discussed in WhatsApp groups which don’t belong there. If you’re in a group for “Agriculture and Farmers“, you shouldn’t be posting about gossip and entertainment news or politics.
  • Don’t Share “Fake” News: Fake news is everywhere. It’s on Twitter. It’s on Facebook and now it’s sneaking it’s way into WhatsApp with people sharing stories without even verifying the source. Please verify the news source’s credibility before you spread false information. (See: Fake News, Satire and Why Sensational Headlines Keep Getting Ghanaians Fooled).

These are just a few “unwritten” rules for communication on WhatsApp. If you know other “unwritten” rules, we would love to read them in the comments section.