Birthday wishes, memories, vacation plans and motivational forwards, this is what family WhatsApp groups looked like a few years ago. It is disheartening to see what most of these groups have become now. When was the last time you actually had a family discussion on that WhatsApp group on days other than festivals or birthdays? Today, family groups on WhatsApp have become a hub of political campaigning, fake news forwards, demeaning political jokes, online bullying and intolerance leading to hatred among members of the same family. WhatsApp, Facebook Must Not Decide Your Vote in Lok Sabha Elections 2019, Your Experience Must.
Over the past few years, it has become a regular trend on family WhatsApp groups to forward jokes on political parties and then argue over them. In most such groups, these arguments are seen turning into ugly fights, thereby, resulting in one or the other family member exiting the respective group. The exchange of messages begins with political jokes turning into political discussions and ending up in personal digs and insults thrown at each other by family members. In one of such discussions, a friend told me that two of her family members didn't speak to each other for a month following a fight over politics on the WhatsApp group.
This trend has taken over family WhatsApp groups, friends groups, office groups and even society groups all over the country. Not just political messages, there are forwards that even demean religions, castes, genders and beliefs. The whole idea of unity in diversity is taking a hit on family WhatsApp groups.
Family disputes were at some point limited to property, money, ego issues. Today, in addition to these, there are WhatsApp groups where family members were supposed to have healthy conversations to keep in touch. Keeping in touch no more seems to be the main motive of these groups. Such groups today are flooded with political propaganda, hateful messages and ultimately, fights.
In December last year, WhatsApp had launched a series of Television Commercials (TVCs) with a message of using WhatsApp groups to spread joy and laughters, not rumours. The company did this in an effort to curb the fake news menace as well as hatred.
Take a look at one of the three WhatsApp ads
However, the purpose of these ads doesn't seem to have been met. It's a sad reality that one's political ideology, one's belief and one's way of life is becoming a reason of hatred among members of families in the country. One may think it is good to have political discussions on family WhatsApp groups. But how often are these discussions healthy? How often are these messages true or verified? Are we open to taking points of view of people not thinking the way we think? Is a person forwarding a political joke open to taking a joke on their political beliefs? What is it that one aims to achieve by sending political propaganda messages, sometimes even fake, on family WhatsApp groups? Is politics above family?
These are serious questions we need to ask ourselves in such times when a poison has spread through relationships, making its way through family WhatsApp groups that were once a happy place. It's time we introspect. It is not our job to influence political ideologies. Let the politicians do that. Our job is to vote and that we must. For our families, we need to set our priorities right.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of LatestLY.)