Is it possible to pacify a WhatsApp group by renaming it? That was the experiment that the founder of a chat created to organize weekend meals and that had ended up being a battlefield did.
When the group lay in a vegetative state — any attempt to revive it was a powder keg — he called to order, made an act of contrition, and changed the name. He called it Contemporary Adults. Against all odds, rebranding is working and harmony reigns. Warning: the result of an experiment can be quite accidental.
A YouGov survey indicates that more than 60% of the users of that app live simultaneously in several groups. By will or lack of it. It is not so easy to refuse to enter, much less leave one of those tribes without causing a small social hecatomb.
In a year of few physical interactions, WhatsApp groups have stratified friends, family and colleagues. According to the company, each group has an average of six members, but technically it could be 256.
It is a universal law that every WhatsApp group will be followed, sooner rather than later, by a more exclusive subgroup where to break into a petit committee. Intimacy never seems enough. And WhatsApp is, by design, an encapsulated chapel where people go to confession and the sin is overconfidence.
During the pandemic it has become our second home. In Spain, the time we spend there has grown by 76% in 2020, according to Kantar data. A space where people feel that they can be who they are, have spelling mistakes, be politically incorrect, lie and border on illegality, it is not strange that it becomes a contest of furious socialists.
Says sociologist William Davies that a sense of privacy favors outbursts of honesty that don’t happen in more exhibitionist places like Instagram.
A 2016 study by Israeli researcher Tomer Simon tried to explain how we behave on WhatsApp in emergencies. Simon studied how rumors about the rape of children in Israel in 2014 spread, noting that among the falsehood were real details, including the names of the boys that had not been made public.
When he looked for the source of the rumors, it almost always came from a well-informed person who had shared what he knew in his little capsule that he assumed private, and that group had done the same with another of his highest confidence, and so on to infinity .
“At the beginning of the hoax, there are usually few people involved who have trusted others, who in turn share the information with another group who forwards it again. Everything supposedly under the strictest confidentiality. On the way, fantasies and half truths are added. There is always the idea of protecting your inner circle with relevant information, ”explains Simon.
“The speed at which fake news circulates on WhatsApp shows how altruistic and uncritical groups can be,” writes Davies in The Guardian . Being the subject that dismantles a conspiracy theory is equivalent to becoming the enemy in a place where, let’s not forget, audios and screenshots are mercilessly forwarded.