The Unspoken Danger of IM (Instant Messaging) Apps

Categories BrainCandy, Featured, MyBlog

Instant messaging has gotten more “instant” since the days when tools such as the yahoo messenger was the preferred (often, the only available) tool for interpersonal communication on the web. These days, the proliferation of mobile technology, coupled with myriad instant messaging apps at our fingertips has greatly increased our options on mobile. There are currently over 4 billion people on earth who chat on mobile.

The most popular IM tool in Nigeria for example (the Whatsapp messenger) is being used by millions of smart-phone users of all ages for interpersonal communication, collaboration and, of course, business. Amongst Nigerian youths, more instant communication actually takes place via mobile IM apps than via voice calls. Why? It’s cheap, quick and sociocentric (you can express your feelings through popular emojis, abbreviations etc).

Has the fluidity and instant nature of messaging apps ever gotten you into trouble? Ever caught yourself sending the wrong message to the right contact or mistakenly replying the wrong person on your contact list? Yeah, I am quite sure lots of us have had that familiar situation where we had to send a follow up SMS to say “ignore, that wasn’t meant for you”. This happens to be one of the most prevalent mistakes we find ourselves making while using mobile devices, some of which often happens to be costlier than we expect, often requiring some damage control.

The extent of the damage control usually depends on the recipient of the message. To some, a short follow-up SMS and a “lol” settles it. But for others, you need a whole lot of explaining to do, especially if the content is oh so damning! Approximately a year ago, a senior staff member who works in a public office in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria mistakenly sent a pornographic image onto his office’s official WhatsApp group, over 80 contacts strong! Awkward!! It gets even more embarrassing. He is known to be married and the piece of content he mistakenly sent obviously wasn’t meant for his wife. This happened on a weekend, by Monday morning, the faux pas was the hottest gist in the office. To save face, the man had to fast rack his annual leave due to the embarrassment.

It gets even more embarrassing. He is known to be married and the piece of content he mistakenly sent obviously wasn’t meant for his wife. This happened on a weekend, by Monday morning, the faux pas was the hottest gist in the office. To save face, the man had to fast rack his annual leave due to the embarrassment.

A similarly awkward incident went viral weeks ago after a young lady, Zoe, mistakenly sent a message meant for her BFF to her boyfriend, actually detailing how she had been cheating on him with another mutual friend of theirs in school. It is believed that she only realized her mistake when she did a double take and saw that she had actually sent the message she had typed to the wrong contact (her boyfriend).

These are just two out of hundreds, maybe thousands of such incidence recorded daily. The scary thing is that no one is immune to such mistakes. The more mobile interactions we have, the more possibility we have of slipping once in a while either via the regular text messages or frequently used IM apps such as Whatsapp.

Remedy? Look before you press send! Most of these incidences must have happened subconsciously due to information overload and our switch between chat threads with different contacts at a time. However, if we are mindful of the possibility of such happening and the consequences that often follows, we just might gain a measure of immunity.