WhatsApp has become a fairly integral part of my life. As with many of you, I am a member of several groups and sometimes, it is hard for me to keep up with all of them. I had planned to write a blog on how WhatsApp has brought people together, has allowed me to reconnect with long lost friends, exchange thoughts on music and books and how I have benefitted from all these interactions. It then struck me that this experience is probably true for everyone else and is nothing new. Each group also has a personality of its own and I had thought of exploring those. I then decided to focus on an aspect that my perceptive friend Pratap suggested to me. The individual personalities in each WhatsApp group as opposed to the group itself. I must confess that as I started writing this, I realized that I fit many of these personas and you could say I have a “multiple WhatsApp personality” disorder. Read this as jest, perhaps you might find yourself identifying with one or more of these. And of course, we all know someone who matches the others. Any resemblance to actual WhatsApp group members is purely coincidental!
Good Morning Greeter
Rises early in the morning and sends an inspirational quote or one or more pictures. Given the time zone differences, ends up being afternoon or evening for other members of the group. Facebook has a special line item in its infrastructure plan budget for these posters.
Keeps the group going with a steady diet of original and forwarded posts. Most groups would wither away without their workhorse members.
Rarely posts on the group but follows the posts avidly. Pipes up to wish members on their birthdays or delivers an occasional zinger. Lurkers in one group could be workhorses in others.
Introduces a controversial topic, then sits back and watches the fun. Particularly effective if he also possesses a thick skin and can shrug off any insults hurled at him.
Bursts the bubble of seemingly fantastic or lurid posts by looking up snopes.com. An adversary or an ally depending on whether it’s your post or someone else’s that is being fact-checked.
Tracks who has responded to his posts and keeps score. “I posted it three months ago, everyone else gave up a thumbs up except you!”
Slips in his achievements surreptitiously with a self-deprecating comment. “Congratulations! I heard you ran a 3 miler. Must have been exhausting! I’ve run about 30 marathons and I am really beat after each of them. Believe me, after running 23 miles, the last 3 are the toughest. I have a long way to go to achieve my PR, but I think you did really well!”. Remembers all his grades and brandishes them once in a while.
Takes genuine pleasure in sharing her hobbies. Includes gardening, painting or singing. Shares pictures of organically grown eggplants or recordings of songs from yesteryears.
Cooks occasionally and shares pictures of his handiwork with all his friends. After asking people to guess the dish a couple of times, decides to post the name of the dish with future posts.
Has the irritating habit of sharing pictures of delicious-looking meals while you are fasting or on a diet. “Tried my hand at sushi today! Not bad but I think I have to make the wasabi from scratch the next time!”
The Well-traveled Gourmet
Responds to the chef’s post with a thumbs up and posts “Reminds me of the most awesome sushi I had at Jiro’s when I was in Tokyo. It was an awesome meal, but I must say that I like the simple stuff. Nothing like a baguette with brie while sitting with the right girl on the left bank of the Seine, sipping a Chenin Blanc. Though on second thoughts, a Chardonnay would be better with the baguette.”
Shares pictures of elaborate meals at exotic restaurants. Particularly galling if you are away from home and have no hope of eating any of that food until you make a trip home next time. To rub it in, includes pictures of empty dishes that have been licked clean.
Takes offense at any perceived slight to his country. Asks you to either leave the country or accuses you of being a turncoat depending on your location. Posts articles detailing the atrocities inflicted on his country or harkens to its glorious past. Criticizes the traffic situation and poor infrastructure in his hometown but goes for your jugular if you mention the same. “Just because you are an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) you think you are too good for us. Just look at the state of your inner cities and then talk.” Most likely to form a sub-group with other like-minded Nationalists.
Bemoans the western influence on Indian culture. Using the Queen’s English, excoriates the British for creating a class of English speaking Indians who have lost touch with their roots. Usually types his posts out on the latest model of an iPhone while consuming scones with clotted cream and sipping his Twinings tea. Differs from the Nationalist in that he does not upbraid individual members but his ire is directed against entire economic systems or continents.
Sometimes smug, sometimes wistful, sometimes misunderstood, sometimes confused, sometimes cursing CNN for a biased article on India, sometimes defending his adopted country from his fellow group members. A non-resident Indian, in occasional spats with the Nationalist, is called a “not required Indian.”
Not a card bearer of the National Rifle Association but the “Non-Resident American” in India. His posts are punctuated with “wanna”, “gonna”, “shoulda” and he always seems to be chowing down American food and listening to the Blues. Knows more about the US than the hapless NRI who is busy taking his son to the Chinmaya Mission classes at the local temple.
Counters some of the Nationalist’s posts with calls for harmony. Has to defend Nehru and the minorities. Is in a particularly vulnerable position if he is an NRI. Some groups have an even mix of secularists and nationalists, some don’t. The pot-stirrer usually starts the debates.
Steps in to gently remind members that they go back a long way and that the current topic being hotly debated upon is not worth ruining friendships that span decades.
The “Don’t Ask Don’t Teller”
Stays clear from debates involving politics and religion. Does not ask for people’s opinion neither offers her own. Sometimes, has strong opinions and seethes silently inside.
Blindly forwards posts without checking them. Forwards it just after somebody has just posted the same article. Forwards it to multiple groups, sometimes twice. Rarely posts anything original.
The Overtly Righteous One
Takes offense at random members for random reasons. Asks you to apologize for your perceived slights towards others. “How dare you post a cartoon on Greenland? Don’t you have any decency? Who the hell do you think you are? Apologize now!”. Apologies to him are accepted on behalf of all residents of Greenland.
Has an inside source in the government or other high places. Predicts when the next lockdown is coming and how long it will last. Sometimes posts photographic evidence of official-looking government letters. Usually fails to predict the reaction to his posts.
Too Cool to Argue Type
Starts an argument and then deigns not to argue with you. “In the interest of keeping sanity and peace in this group, I shall refrain from posting anymore on this subject!”
Believer and forwarder
Believes everything that is forwarded to be true. Including videos of 300-year-old monks who are excavated alive from their underground tombs and stories of venomous spiders that lurk under the toilet seats at your favorite restaurant. Well-intentioned and genuinely looking out for you.
The Back to Nature Type
Wants to get back to nature and a minimalistic lifestyle. Grows garden veggies and recycles everything. Is not a Luddite but decries the slow creep of modernity into everything.
“Happy Day” Wisher
Wishes you “Happy Daughter Day”, “Happy Grand Uncle Day”, “Happy Fleabag Day”, “Happy Bagpiper’s Day” etc.
“Old News” Type
Is remarkably up to date and has invariably already read the post you have just forwarded. Sometimes even before the event actually happened.
He is like the “Condo Commando” educating you on the group etiquette, your incorrect use of emojis and threatening to throw you out of the group for the slightest perceived offense. Is particularly dangerous when he is also a Nationalist, Secularist and/or the Overtly Righteous One.
Casually drops names of famous people during a post. “Did I watch the cricket match today? No, I did not have the time, I was busy talking to the dog walker who knows someone who has walked Jeff Bezos’s dogs. But did I tell you that I was Rahul Dravid’s senior in school? I know! Even Satya Nadella’s classmate’s nephew did not believe it when I told him this.” At this, the fact-checker pipes in to say that Jeff Bezos has a robotic dog and it walks itself and does not need a walker. The “back to nature” guy wrings his hands in despair. He is too shocked to type and just proffers a “sad” emoji.
Provides in-depth and sometimes cogent analysis on the current world happenings. Usually predicts the outcome of a China-India conflict with lots of jargon thrown in such as QUAD, realpolitik, asymmetrical combat etc.
The La Dolce Vita Type
Always seems to be living the good life and posting pictures from Bangkok, Bali and the Bahamas. Poses with pretty companions and has exotic cocktails in his free hand. Has escaped the rat race, makes other group members envious.
Posts pictures of a glencairn containing an expensive scotch with the bottle nearby for identification. “Cheers guys! Its not bad for a Highlands, but I really prefer the peaty stuff. I must open that bottle of Lagavulin 16 Distillers Edition after this one.”
The Spirits Guy
Does not discriminate when it comes to his choice of poison. His posts featuring tequila, vodka, whisky, gin, beer are all par for the course. Pines for his Old Monk though.
Listens to ghazals while imbibing spirits. Gets sentimental as the night goes on and then posts “I love you guyz” in multiple groups. Confesses his still lingering infatuation for old flames and regrets it the next morning. At the most inopportune times, the pot-stirrer resurrects these postings.
The Spiritual Soul
Forwards abstract profound teachings or videos. Usually accompanied by a guru who is talking of one’s inner desire to become one with the eternal. Waxes eloquently on meditation but sometimes flies off his handle only to post more posts on meditation.
The Religious Soul
Forwards pictures of various deities, saints and pilgrimage sites and passes on their blessings.
The Chain Post Artist
Forwards posts which usually combine the religious soul’s pictures with a benediction. Asks you to forward it to other groups. Usually includes a dire warning of the ills that will befall you if fail to and break the chain.
Quotes Nietzsche, Plato and Freud intermittently. Usually posts after a post by the spiritual guru. His profile picture is accompanied by a blurb like “Omnes una manet nox” or some other Latin phrase.
Believes that an emoji is worth a thousand words. However, is not satisfied with a thousand and posts a string of emojis to convey a million. Usually follows a post by the spiritual guru or philosopher with a string of emojis that leave you wondering what they mean. But you don’t understand the spiritual and philosophical stuff anyways so this makes it three out of three for you!
Posts pictures of the books he owns and recommends them to others. Does not fess up to whether he has read any of them. “Funny you say so, because Charles Allen in his splendid biography on Rudyard Kipling, ‘Kipling Sahib’ actually says that this is not true. Let me rummage through my bookshelf to find the actual quote.”
The Movie and Song Buff
Knows everything there is to be known about movies and songs. Posts clippings from movies and concerts.
The Grammar Nazi
Points out typos and grammatical errors. I must confess that my fingers itch when I see “loose” and “lose” interchanged in messages. “And then, I told him, don’t loose your mind I say!” Though, colloquially in India, when a person loses his mind, he is called “loose”. Loosers!
The Sports Analyst
Out of the blue, resurrects old cricket and soccer matches and provides a lengthy analysis of the game with lots of stats and quotes.
The Trivia Buff
Knows arcane things that are of no use to anybody or himself but shares them nevertheless in the group.
The Intrepid Traveler
Walks, bikes, kayaks, swims, hang-glides, para-glides, bungee jumps his way all over the world.
Usually another avatar of the intrepid traveler. Sometimes takes a walk into the woods once a year and posts pictures of his walk.
Takes pictures of his food, his walks, his car rides, himself, his cat, his dog, a sparrow on his window sill and posts them. Likely to post a picture of a tree in fall with the caption “On the street where I live”. The movie buff pipes up and says “From My Fair Lady, though I like the Dean Martin version of the song better”. At this, the trivia buff asks “You mean Dino Crocetti?”.
The Fitness Freak
Remarkably fit for her age, posts videos exhorting other group members to get off their butt. Seems to be upbeat and full of life. Posts by the fitness freak are usually followed by a post by the achievement reminder with pictures of herself from 30 years ago.
The Prodigal Son
Leaves the group, returns. Leaves the group, returns. Leaves the group, returns.
The Social Media Abstainer
Suddenly posts a message saying that he has had enough of social media and leaves the group. Calls you later to find out what is happening in the group. Rejoins the group after some time. If he does this a few times, becomes a prodigal son.
The Absent minded Type
Forgets which group she is in and forwards messages inadvertently to other groups to which they should not have been forwarded.
The Elephant Man
Has an elephant’s memory and remembers incidents from school or the past that you just cannot recall. You sometimes wonder if they really happened or if he is just making them up. He can’t remember what he posted yesterday though.
The Conspiracy Theorist
Forwards posts that are riddled with conspiracy theories. The current pandemic has proven to be particularly fertile territory.
Post pictures of gadgets or models that he has put together. Stirling engines and complicated gear mechanisms. They are pretty cool actually. As a gardener, he is usually adept at jugaad and recycles old washroom sinks to serve as planters.
The Porn Poster
No group admits to having one but Facebook dedicates entire server farms to them. And tracks who sends them and who views them. How many times.
The Russian Doll Admin
Creates a group and adds all and sundry. Creates another group with a filtered list. Creates a smaller group with a further filtered list. A nightmare for the absent minded member who is in all the groups.
The Eternal Optimist
Always upbeat and cheerful. Every group needs one in these times. Can get on your nerves though if you are a Country Singer.
The Country Singer
Is genuinely down on luck and looks to the group for solace and to vent steam. Sometimes is a guzzler to boot. His posts are usually responded to by the spiritual, religious and philosophical members.
The Carpet Bomber
Slams the group with a series of forwards or pictures. You wake up in the morning to find 360 unread posts and wonder if the world is coming to an end.
Rarely gets to the point and prefaces every post with “There is actually an interesting story behind this”. Most group members zone out when they see that sentence and skip past the post.
The School Boy
Still stuck in school. Remembers anecdotes and teachers. Pines for his childhood. Posts like a school boy too. “Don’t think you are big Jang ok! Just cock up and get lost!”
The Omniscient One
Scarily knows everything about everything. Has forgotten more than all other group members will ever remember. Many pretenders to the throne, probably does not exist but you hear of one when members recount their days at the IIT hostel.
Has the knack of coming up with the most appropriate puns. You wonder how he does that. Forwards jokes, the good ones.
Always finds a parallel in history to a current event. Provides lengthy comparisons and ends each post with “History repeats itself!”
Seamlessly switches between languages in a single post. “Ille macha, I was driving peacefully on 80 Feet Road when suddenly usne right side se mujhe maara!”
The Shameless Plugger
Forwards links to his blogs whether people read them or not. Usually prefaces them with “You might find this interesting” or “Shamelessly plugging my new blog”. Some of them deal with arcane singers from the 1930s whose songs even your grandparents did not bother listening. It’s sad that WhatsApp does not give you a feature to block him like Facebook does. However, the emojist posts a couple of emojis to boost his spirits. He takes succor in those two thousand words of appreciation!
The Personality Analyzer
Has the temerity to analyze personalities of WhatsApp group members and post them on his blog at his own peril. Worse, he shamelessly plugs his blog in all the groups that he is a member of. Each time he posts something on WhatsApp from now on, he runs the risk of somebody reminding him of his analysis. “Bibliophile storyteller eh? You are no punnyman, stop carpet-bombing us with your shameless plugs and apologize to the group right now!”
The featured image for the blog is that of Getafix the druid from the Asterix & Obelix comics series. Besides brewing the all important magic potion that makes the Gauls invincible he has a lot of other tricks up his sleeve. I’ve used his picture to represent the proverbial “pot-stirrer”.