When I was in high school I met a girl during a sports tour to Port Elizabeth. We exchanged numbers and addresses and I spent much of my matric year whispering into a phone at the very end of the cord’s length while my nosey family strained their ears to listen in.
The letters were different. There we shared long anecdotes about our weeks at school, professed our undying affection for each other and made promises for post-school dates and romantic interludes to come.
Eventually it all fizzled out, but for a year the buzz of receiving a letter in the post, my name written in three different colours, a small heart about the “i” and trying to guess the secrets sealed inside could not be beat.
Now, of course, if you meet someone in a similar situation to the one described above you could be sending messages of devotion in an instant. Texts, Whatsapp and other instant messaging services have expedited the process.
Everything would happen quicker, too. A long, drawn out long-distance romance like mine, which dragged on for almost a year, would be done and dusted inside two days.
While instant message services like Whatsapp are a fantastic way to stay in touch, they can also be a little too instant. There’s always the chance, when you’re in a hurry to communicate, that a message being sent doesn’t always reach the desired target.
For example, a few weeks ago I was away from home and before going to bed sent my wife a series of messages telling her how much I loved her and so on (obviously after too many beers).
No replies were forthcoming, so I fell asleep in a huff. When I woke up I saw that my friend Jonathan had messaged overnight. “I love you too,” his message read. “Well, that explains it,” I thought while writing back to Robyn who was asking why I hadn’t messaged her the night before.
But that’s minor compared to my soon-to-be-parents friends Pete and Thivash. One of the great tools of Whatsapp is group messaging, allowing you to add numerous people to one conversation.
Say, for instance, there are a few of you who like to cycle. Add everyone to a group and one message does the trick for a time and place instead of rounding everyone up with individual messages.
Thivash thought this would be a great way to announce the birth of her child to select friends and family. The baby is only due later this month, but two weeks ago a number of us received a Whatsapp group message with the heading “Thivash and Pete baby born”.
Immediately reactions started pinging back and forth. Most were shocked that the baby was so early, others offered cautious congratulations, perhaps wondering if something went wrong.
Then Pete, the father, appeared on the group, saying, “Oh jeez, I better leave work then and get to the hospital”. At the same time, the creator of the group, Thivash, left the group, leaving everyone to speculate on the surprise early arrival.
By now family members from around the world were writing confused “congrats?” to the group, with others simply offering “huh?” to the conversation.
It wasn’t the baby that was early, just the announcement, with Thivash not realising that the group is shared the instant it’s created. She’s assured us all that the actual announcement will be performed along more traditional lines… on Facebook.
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