9 Etiquettes for Healthier and Meaningful Participations in WhatsApp Groups

Social media has emerged as an indispensable tool for communication and interaction. In addition to its affordability, the feature with which it offers group interactions makes it more appealing. This has significantly motivated laggards (late adopters of technology) to switch to smartphones.

WhatsApp groups being the most interactive instant messaging platform, which has emerged to be more active than all the active SNSs (social networking sites), has numerous advantages. However, to appreciate these advantages in a better way, we ought to be mindful of some ethics which are necessary for virtual interactions.

This article highlights nine such etiquettes which contribute to a healthier and more meaningful participation in WhatsApp groups. If we take these etiquettes into consideration, it’s hoped that we will establish a better sense of belonging to the various WhatsApp groups we are subscribed to. And both our participations and silence, in the various WhatsApp groups we are subscribed to, will be cherished, insha Allah.

#1: Every WhatsApp Group Has Unique Objectives

Groups are created for reasons. Arguably, some groups are created for fun. But not all groups are created for that reason. Some groups are created for updates on world affairs. Some are created for family members to keep in touch. Some are for business coordinations. Some are for work or office related discussions. Some for academic updates.  Some groups are for hobby and happy riders. Sharing and discussions in these groups vary and revolve around people’s mutual interests and core objectives.

Thus, before we share anything in a group, we should evaluate its relevance to the group’s central purpose. No doubt, every content is significant; at least to its creator as well as to its sharer. But significant content loses its significance and value when it’s posted in the wrong group or shared with the wrong audience.

A group’s name should be a clear indicator of its objectives. Therefore, there is no necessity for explicit highlighting of a group’s purpose and objectives (especially if there’s no feature for that at the moment). So, in order to remember the objectives of a group, simply look at its name.

For instance, if a group’s name reads, “Ibn Hajar’s Works,” then it’s expected that 90 percent–if not 100 percent–of the sharing we make in the group reflect Ibn Hajar’s works and what we learn from them. Dr Zakir Naik’s response to an “atheist,” for example, will be irrelevant to this group. No doubt, Dr Naik’s propagations of Islam are beneficial, but they are suitable for a different group and audience.

There are plentiful WhatsApp groups that are meant for Da’wah. Perhaps, 80 percent of the members of “Ibn Hajar’s Works” group are subscribed to them. Dr Zakir Naik’s presentations are also likely there already. Those interested can find them there through a simple search.

#2: WhatsApp Group Admins Can Be More Responsible

In the real world, at best, you have a few dozen close friends. However, when you are asked to recommend someone from whom to seek advice, you don’t recommend all of your friends. You rather recommend one or two depending on their probability or willingness to help as well as their knowledge of the subject matter in question.

It should be the same when you are recommending groups to your friends. Add them to the groups that share topics and objectives which you believe they are more likely to be interested in.

When you add a participant into a group meant for politics, but the person is vehemently uninterested in politics but rather interested in other areas, such as designing, how do you expect him to feel at home in an environment where he doesn’t feel he belongs?

#3: Seek Consent Before Adding Participants to Groups

One of the common bad habits of some WhatApp group admins is that when they decide to create then proceed to add their chosen participants without their consent. So, by the time they realize it, they are already receiving notifications from unknown groups. This happens because we assume whatever interests us must also interest others. This assumption should be reviewed.

Moreover, although your friend may have common interests with a certain group, it is wise to seek his consent before adding him to one. This is because he might be subscribed to one already.

As a group admin, you should always remember that if a group is worth creating, then it’s participants are worth to be notified before being added to it. This is how you can get people’s participation and interaction.  This will also minimise the number of people who leave your group after being added. You will also not have participants who would want to leave your group but find it difficult to do, for they don’t want to offend you.

#4: WhatApp Groups Are Public Domain

Just like groups on Facebook, WhatsApp groups are in the public domain and are created for specific purposes. It’s not for personal use, personal journal or blogging.

Once you are in a group, even if it’s family group, you are visible to more than just yourself.  How you go out to meet your friends in real life should be the same way you come out in groups to share or talk.

If you need to dress up before meeting your friends, you need to do a virtual dressing before appearing in a group.

When in public in the real world, we have boundaries and limits to observe. In virtual groups, we should be even more mindful, because our readers can’t see our facial expressions or our body language that will help them put our words into context. So we should not assume that they think the way we think, or can easily get our point the way we want them to.

#5: Don’t Spam the Groups You Are Subscribed to

Not many of us realize that by just sharing, we actually spam the groups we are subscribed to. You may have a good intention for sharing whatever you share. But when you share everything you come across to a public group, other group members will likely perceive you as a spammer. And indeed, you are.

There is no harm in sharing whatever you perceive is worth sharing. But not everything that is worth sharing is suitable for all groups. Sharing everything everywhere causes inconvenience to other group members. The only suitable place for sharing whatever we believe or perceive to be worth sharing is our personal timelines, pages, websites or even WhatsApp broadcast lists (not groups).

Doing so makes it easy for your friends, fans, followers and subscribers to access your sharing easily. This means, putting everything in all the groups you are subscribed to sends unnecessary notifications to other group members.

Spamming doesn’t mean sending irrelevant or useless materials to your fellows in a WhatsApp group. It rather means sending these materials at a very high frequency, even when they are useful.

Think of a person who forwards ten (10) materials (messages) to a group in a span of 2 minutes. Each material ranges between 1 to 3 page in length, or even longer. You wonder if he ever reads them before forwarding them to the group. You wonder if he even spares even five minutes to scan through them before forwarding them.

I asked a brother about how he feels when a notification from this type of sharing is delivered to his WhatsApp. His response was one word; annoying!

This is how many group members–if not all–feel when you spam WhatsApp groups with junk. They become junk because the probability of these messages being read by your fellow group members is very slim.

#6: Don’t Comment When You Have No Answer, Solution or Suggestion

Regardless of the core objectives of groups, they are created for members to get help the fastest way when the need arises. They are also created to offer moral–and sometimes financial–support to each other when needed.

No one knows it all. No one has it all. Everyone has something different from the other. Everyone knows something that many others might not know. Collectively as a group, we become complete. But we remain dynamic.

It’s, therefore, common and expected for group members to come in seeking help, advice or ideas, from time to time. When help is sought or a question is asked, any response should offer a solution or a clarification to the question at hand.

If you have none of these, it’s not advisable to come in and say, for instance, “I have none and I don’t know when or where you can find it.” The truth is, this type of comment adds no value to a group’s togetherness nor does it make you look any better. In fact, it insults the member who is asking and is likely waiting for answers, solutions and suggestions.

#7: Don’t Shame Fellow Group Members

WhatsApp groups are social gatherings which take place in the virtual world. They are not meant to be controlled groups. They are meant to be interactive, and, indeed, they are. This gives participants the power to share anything at anytime. You can say whatever you want and respond to whomever you want, however you want, relevantly in the relevant groups.

Therefore, there’s tendency of defending one’s ego and saving his self-esteem in many situations, when he’s wrong and gets corrected by other group members. The other tendency is by bullying others so to look good and superior. This leads to shaming others, knowingly and unknowingly.

At any point in WhatsApp groups, if you feel offended by fellow group members, it’s wise to not respond to a comment when you feel you are agitated, offended or insulted. Step back, compose your response and save it for later. Come back after a while and review your response and you will more than likely change some of your wording. You may–after this pause–realise it is unnecessary to respond, at all.

#8: Keep Personal Conversations Outside the Groups

It burdens to wake up in the morning to 159+ new messages in a family or academic group, only to find out, after scrolling through all of these messages, that it was a conversation between persons A and Q. This should have been kept in private. It’s good to catch up with one another. But it’s not good to engage others to go through a conversation that is supposed to take place between two people only.

#9: Feel Free to Leave

If you are subscribed to a mailing list, you have the right to unsubscribe at any time.  You do this when you find the newsletters no longer beneficial or relevant. Similarly, if you think you don’t belong to a WhatsApp group, considering the type of content that is frequently shared and the general atmosphere of interaction, then you can politely or quietly leave the group.

It would be understandable if you leave without notice. But there’s no harm if you drop the admin a brief private message to explain your reasons for leaving.

You want to leave the group, but you don’t want to break your friendship.

WhatsApp Groups in Which You Can Post Everything

Having indicated all the etiquettes above, it’s now worth indicating that some groups are suitable for everything. You can share whatever you want, provided it’s within the limits of modesty, morality, righteousness and respect.

Family WhatsApp groups, for one, is the best group where you can share multi-dimensional materials. Imagine when family members gather together, for or for no occasion in real life. What is usually the direction of their discussion? It’s dynamic and borderless. The same thing applies in family WhatsApp groups.

One thing to beware of is that groups of such nature usually have participants from all age ranges. You have children in there, as well as adolescents and teenagers. Certainly, adults are in control of most discussions. Therefore, it may not be appropriate to share adult materials there. In fact, some adult materials are not permissible to be shared in any circumstance.

Materials that Can Be Shared in All Types of WhatsApp Groups

I’ve indicated above that not everything that is worth sharing is suitable for sharing in every other group. There are a few exceptions to this. They can be shared in all groups, but they are also optional. Please think carefully before you share them:

Good News

When one graduates, gets married, or has a new addition in his family, he may share that good news with his loved ones and friends. This type of news can be shared across all groups.

Sad News

Death, accident, and pandemics are among the sad news you can share with any group you belong to, if you need some moral support. It’s optional though. Some groups are more close to your heart than others. So bear that in mind.

Invitation

Invitation to your convocation, wedding reception or open house. Feel free to invite your loved ones to all the groups you are subscribed to, to such events. Hopefully, they are able to make it. Hopefully, you make your estimations well.

Seasonal Greetings

When it’s Eid, new year or any significant religious and national anniversary, you can share congrats and best wishes with all groups that share with you the same celebration or understanding about it.

Conclusion

WhatsApp groups are virtual get-together platforms for sharing common interests and supporting one another. It’s is wise to be considerate, just like you would do in real life discussions, and be mindful of the expectations of your fellow group members. Some take for granted the fact that they can’t see–in person–the other group members, they can behave however they want.

For all you know, many find it difficult to leave some groups, because they don’t want to offend the group admins by leaving. Unfortunately, some group admins fail to realize how uncomfortable they make others.

Many participants in 1000s of WhatsApp groups are in the groups, just to add numbers. Many have muted their notifications to most of the groups they are subscribed to. Simply because, they are added without their consent. In other words, they wouldn’t have joined if they were given the option to join. It’s important to emphasise that groups lose their benefits if they all end up doing the same thing; updating on world affairs.

Now over to you. What are some of the etiquettes you think we should observe in the various WhatsApp groups? What are the types of sharing that annoy group members in the WhatsApp groups you are subscribed to?

Let the discussion continue on Facebook. To receive updates from GSalam.Net delivered right to your inbox, click here. If you know a friend or an acquaintance who may benefit from this article, there will be no harm sharing it with him, inshā Allah.

Allah knows best.
Allahu Hafiz 🙂

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