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The Many Faces of WhatsApp Notifications

  1. source of anxiety


I work with WhatsApp constantly. Simply because it has long become the primary means of communication. Simply because my work group chat is on it. As much as I’d like to not open it, I can’t, for I’d be missing a lot of work information. That would lead to an inevitably low KPI and I don’t want to get fired on my fourth month of working.

On a daily basis, I get notifications in the morning regarding work. (Sometimes about the school, but that’s beside the point. School hardly stresses me out.) Sometimes it’s okay. Nothing. Piece of cake. Been there, done that. Tasks are easily done in mere minutes. But sometimes it grips my gut and threatens to devour me. 

How ridiculous. It’s just another run-of-the-mill daily task that has been included in my contract. I’m obligated to it as much as my workmates are, yet it still bothers me from time to time. The fact that it bothers me bothers me even more. 

I always—most of the time, about ninety-five percent—manage to complete them. It’s not a big deal, seriously. Sometimes just a bunch of photos and captions to post on social media. A bunch of photos without a caption, so I have to craft one. Notices regarding schedule. Changes in workflow. All that. I managed to complete them without so much hassle. But I still haven’t gotten over the fact that it’s anxiety-inducing.

To some extent.

(It might, now that I reflect on it, have something to do with my own sense of accomplishment and fear of doing something wrong. What if I did the tasks horribly? What if I replied to the messages in the wrong tone? What if I appeared too uncertain, too cheerful, too offensive? What if the writers resented me for what I say? What if the audience thought the admin was a complete idiot?)


  1. dread feeling of anonymity


There are many situations like this: a day starts as usual. The next second you’re added into a God-knows-what group chat.

I hate when it happens. I’ve had this bunch of groups and incoming messages to take care of already, can’t people stop adding me here and there without my permission? And I know it seems superficial. It happens every day and it’s done out of the mere need to avoid miscommunication, to ensure clarity. It is done with good intentions.

But it’s unsettling. Forcing me to be present and participate in a conversation I don’t want to be a part of. It may seem insignificant, but when you already have a lot going on in your life (and on your phone), one small addition is all it takes to push you over the edge.

(I once ignored a stupidly important message for a week and got kicked in the butt for it. Lesson learned, but do you know the satisfaction that comes with completing multiple tasks a day while fully realizing there’s a backlog queuing on your inbox? The impending doom combined with a sense of achievement and a surge of relief. It’s one hell of a feeling. Although not one particularly fit for maintaining a good relationship.)

I signed up for a webinar about a few months ago. I had hoped that would be the end of it. Or rather, I had expected to have an email delivered to my inbox, detailing payment info and the link for the meeting. But no. The event organizer felt the need to gather us all the participants in one group, where everything regarding the webinar would be shared in—the payment info, the Zoom quota, the recording, and the ppt file. And what happens when a group of a hundred-something people gathers together in one place without having a single clue who the other people are? They say hi and thank you and ask mundane questions. The latter unnerved me so much, because hello, you’re asking when the webinar was going to be held? It’s there on its social media account! You could’ve gone there and saved people the pain of answering your painfully obvious borderline infuriating questions! And why would people answer, anyway? Well, guess what, apparently some did!

I muted the group and resented the organizer for a whole week.


  1. pure elation


It started out as a stupid, thoughtless text, that gradually grew and meant and was awaited a little more than was necessary.

I still consider a text merely asking whether one has already eaten the sappiest of sappy texts—and the list includes the ones asking where you are and what you’re doing at the moment. It’s cringy and screams what is your business? to the base of my skull. It makes me cringe all over as if ants were crawling up my skin. How could someone stand such texts twenty-four-seven in a relationship?

It sounds effortless too, and not in a good way. Wouldn’t one appreciate a more thoughtful message? Asking how their days went, the projects they’ve been working on, their mental state and well-being. It would mean a great deal. It could even save them from themselves, for who knows how bad of a day they’ve gone through? It would show that you’re making an effort to actually pay attention to their agendas, their activities, their interests, and whatnot. “Have you eaten yet” pales in comparison to them.

But that was in the beginning. The early stage where we played hide-and-seek like little kids afraid of coming out of their shells. It developed along with the increase in texts and the number of times spent fleetingly wondering what you were doing and where you’d been going; scheduled late-night talks and sneaking out here and there; and, eventually, the pings of notifications and lighting up of the screen.

(Have you eaten yet? / Are you going to ask me out for lunch? / And that’s how you upgrade yourself from the sappiest of texters to an agreeable human being.)

You smiled a little bit more. I smiled a little bit more. That was enough. Smitten, I recognized the telltale. What a terrifying thought. To be caught up in this cycle of infatuation, with impending heartbreak just around the corner.

I figured I could make one exception for you.


  1. anticipation


The best thing about this pandemic, as far as I can tell, is its unique ability to bring people together. The worst thing about it is its ability to take people apart. Some friends I’ve got to get closer to, and some close friends, closer still. Then there are close friends I’ve drifted away from.

I never consider myself someone with lots of connections, but after staring at my phone waiting for it to go off, only then did it occur to me that I’ve been drifting away from my friends.

There’s a girl I know, who had an air of constant boredom and a cold expression that could only be formed after years of ignored presence, the girl with whom I often talk and swear and joke. We had a good time. We had a connection. We would insult and hug and talk about today’s class, about the upcoming event, about anything in-between.

She’s a girl I’m fond of. Certainly a friend I want to keep for as long as I can.

A few days back I shot her a text and realized we haven’t been talking for a really long time and I know this because it feels stiff and unnatural for me to talk to you like this, we’re not supposed to have our connections cut off, we’re supposed to be communicating like any other friends with a significant amount of similarity and fondness towards each other would, what has happened to us?

It took some work but eventually, we managed to get back on a rather normal way of chatting. It’s similar to what happens in real life, I think. When you drift apart from someone you know inside-out and stay in no contact for an extended period of time, there will be some lost threads hanging between you, tearing up the long-standing friendship and understanding.

(I like seeing your name on my screen. Lighting up my phone, blinking it awake. Seeing your name and snatches of the text you sent popped up on the top of my phone. You send the most random of questions, the stupidest of memes, the most wholesome of encouragement, the most freaky and obscure of stickers.

I often don’t realize I’ve been waiting for your text until it appears.)


  1. loneliness


I know I shouldn’t feel this way. It’s just the lack of pings and beeps and hellos. Our friendship shouldn’t be defined by mere chats. We all have our agendas we get caught up in. It’s so easy and totally, absolutely understandable to forget everything else.

But we’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic. One that requires us to not be out as often as we’d like to be. One that requires us to be separate and communicate through little screens on our phone or laptop or computer. It’s the only means of communicating between us two.

It sometimes—often times—gets me thinking, the lack of incoming messages. This is nonsense. Our friendship shouldn’t be defined by our frequency of chatting. It shouldn’t. We are still friends despite not chatting for a day or two.

But then chatting is communicating. And in order for a relationship to work—platonic, romantic, work, any relationship you can name off the top of your head—communication is the key. What is there to it if we’re not communicating?

(Where are you? What are you doing? Are you busy? I know you are. It’s been so silent lately. Are we fighting? We’re not fighting. I know we’re not. We’re just in the phase again. Of no communication. Of running out of topics or reasons to barge in and disturb the other one. I have a load of stupid things to say and I want to share it with you, but you’re not here, so what’s the point? Can I send a text or will you get mad at me? Can I send you a text or will you consider me too clingy and chatty and obnoxious?)

I don’t like this feeling. Not talking to you even for a day grates my nerves more than my liking. I feel like we’re ignoring each other—when in fact we’re not. We simply have nothing to discuss or talk about in the meantime. We would, maybe tomorrow or the day after, or the week after that, and we would greet each other with some capital letters and a blast of incoming yells and shrieks and a string of emojis. And everything would turn back to normal, before we run out of things to say again and the cycle repeats itself.     

(Can I send you a text or will I get rejected for it?)     

157 thoughts on “The Many Faces of WhatsApp Notifications”

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