So one of the things I do when I’m bored is to open the “new conversation” (plus sign) thing on my WhatsApp and check which of my contacts are there in my WhatsApp social network. I do this periodically, without any particular reason. On the upside, I see people who I haven’t spoken to for a long time, and this results in a conversation. On the downside, this is freaky.
The problem with WhatsApp is that it automatically assumes that everyone in your phone book is someone you want to keep in touch with. And more likely than not, people make their WhatsApp profile pictures visible to all. And sometimes these profile pictures have to do with something personal, rather than a simple mugshot. Some people have pictures of their homes, of their kids, and of better halves. And suddenly, everyone who has their number on their phone book gets a peek into the part of their lives they’ve chosen to make public by way of their WhatsApp profile pictures!
Some examples of people on my phone book into whose lives I’ve thus got a peek includes a guy who repairs suitcases, a guy who once repaired my refrigerator, a real estate broker whose services I’d engaged five years back to rent out my house, and so forth. And then there are business clients – purely professional contacts, but who have chosen to expose through their WhatsApp profile pictures aspects of their personal lives! Thus, through the picture function (of course you can choose to not make your picture public), you end up knowing much more about random contacts in your phone book than you need to!
The next level of freakiness comes from people who have moved on from the numbers that they shared with you. So you see in the photo associated with an old friend someone who looks very very different and who is definitely not that friend! And thanks to their having put pictures on WhatsApp, you now get an insight into their personal lives (again I tell you that people put intensely personal pictures as their WhatsApp profile pictures). I haven’t tried messaging one of these assuming they are still the person who is my friend and used to once own their number!
Then there are friends who live abroad who gave you the numbers of close relatives when they were in town so that you could get in touch with them. These numbers have now duly passed back on to the said relatives (usually a parent or a sibling) of your overseas friends, and thanks to the pictures that they put on WhatsApp, you now get an insight into their lives! Then you start wondering why you still have these contacts in your phonebook, but then it’s so unintuitive to delete contacts that you just let it be.
The thing with Android is that it collects your contacts from all social media and puts them into your phone book – especially Facebook and LinkedIn. On Facebook people are unlikely to give out their phone numbers, and everyone on my facebook friends list is my friend anyway (today I began a purge to weed out unknown people from my friends list) it’s not freaky to see them on your whatsapp. But then thanks to the Android integration, you have your LinkedIn contacts popping up in your address books, and consequently whatsapp!
Again, LInkedIn has a lot of people who are known to you, though you have no reason to get to know their personal lives via the photos they put on WhatsApp. But on LinkedIn you also tend to accept connection requests from people you don’t really know but think might benefit from associating with them at a later date. And thanks to integration with WhatsApp, and profile pics, you now get an insight into the lives of your headhunters! It’s all bizarre.
So yes, you can conclude that I might be jobless enough to go through my full WhatsApp contacts list periodically. Guilty as charged. The problem, though, is that people don’t realise that their WhatsApp profile pictures are seen by just about anyone who has their number, irrespective of the kind of relationship. And thus people continue to put deeply personal pictures as their WhatsApp profile pictures, and thus bit by bit give themselves away to the world!
The solution is simple – put a mugshot or a “neutral” photo as your WhatsApp profile picture. You don’t know how many people can see that!