Just the other morning I was patiently waiting for my toast when I received a text from my friend. She was asking my opinion on a jacket she couldn’t afford to buy but was planning on getting anyway. So, I did what any good friend would do; I reminded her about the importance of managing your money well and asked her to send me a pic of said jacket. It swiftly came through to my WhatsApp, followed by the same image on our Facebook group chat. Followed by a notification from Pinterest. My phone proceeded to vibrate hysterically like a deranged jackhammer hooked on methamphetamine.
Just when I thought the dust had settled and I could enjoy my toast, I receive a Wechat from my Dad in China. Then a message on Line from my sister in Japan. She asked me if I was free to FaceTime her about a present for my mum that she just linked me on Google Hangouts. It was getting tense.
My toast – the only food I had because I was so skint – was now burnt. BURNT I tell you; as charred as a Guy Fawkes doll following bonfire night. And it was all technology’s fault. I bet they didn’t have these problems in the Prehistoric era when all you had to worry about, presumably, was whether you would be taken out by a huge asteroid or if you had sharpened your spear that day.
I left for work exhausted, disheartened and – above all – fu*king hungry. I ambled down the road in a reflective mood. It is hard coming to terms with the fact that we have a flurry of apps on our phones that serve precisely the same purpose. I remember the sweet, innocent days when BBM was the only app we needed to fit in.
Whatsapp, Viber, iMessage, Snapchat – the list seems to be ever-increasing with Google releasing their third messaging app (Google Allo) just the other week. Our current app-climate is not unlike our environmental one: evolving, unpredictable and extreme. As if it wasn’t hard enough already to decide what mode of contact to use we’re also expected to be consistently active on multiple platforms at once. I’m not going to lie it’s not making me appy (see what I did? I’m sorry).
BRB, I think my phone’s just gone off… NVM, it was just the toaster notifying me that the incineration process is complete.
So, what is the appeal of social messaging apps over more ‘traditional’ texting? Social messaging apps offer so much more than the bog standard SMS. We all know how unreliable texting can be – especially between iPhones and androids. Apps like Whatsapp make it easier and far cheaper to share photos and videos with groups of contacts. Also, who doesn’t love being a bit of a stalker and knowing exactly when someone has read your message or last been active online? I know I do.
Although it can be intensely frustrating because i) you have to respond immediately – you know the other person has read your message ii) it becomes incredibly annoying when you know someone has read your message and has not opted to respond promptly iii) you never open your inbox because you feel like you’ll be obliged to respond to everything.
As for social networking, a recent study reported by Business Insider concluded that the Big 4 messaging apps have now surpassed the Big 4 social networking apps. People, especially younger folk, are opting for more instant and direct forms of contact rather than the more social platforms like Facebook.
Recently apps like Line and Wechat, that are hugely popular in Asia, have gone the extra step to extend their services. They now allow users to share photos and videos to their profiles and have others interact with it – a service that WhatsApp is yet to develop.
One of the apps we have seen transform more than any other, and the one that seems to be reigning supreme at the minute, is Snapchat. It now incorporates a ‘Discover’ feature for brands, allowing them to promote professionally created, time-sensitive content aimed specifically at the concise attention span of the younger generation.
It’s difficult to know how social messaging might develop over time. Will they all continue to compete for more users head-to-head? Or will there eventually be one omnipotent app to rule them all? A King Jong-il of the app world if you will.
The only personal choice we can make now is to try and limit the amount of apps we use, but who can resist the appeal of a cute Snapchat filter? Or the GIF feature on Facebook that offers a relevant meme for any situation, with minimum effort? We need memes. All the memes. Memes are what makes the world go round as I’m sure you know.
For now, we’ll just have to grin and bear the inconvenience, along with the occasional piece of burnt toast.
Follow Marigold on Twitter: @mariwarner_x
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