For Korkor, 26, phones are an endless source of anxiety. “Whenever I see that I’ve got multiple messages at once, it suggests someone is urgently trying to get a hold of me so I assume it’s an emergency. I immediately feel panicked and concerned.” Just as a series of short, snappy messages can spark concern, so can singular lengthy ones. You know, the kind you might draft in your Notes app to settle an argument with a friend or partner. “Receiving paragraphs or large text messages fills me with dread,” Korkor adds. “Tone can be misunderstood over text; it’s always better to hear a person’s voice – and to hear it in real time.”
Today, if you own a smartphone, there are multiple instant messaging platforms at your disposal. WeChat. Signal. Viber. And so on. But one of the most popular is WhatsApp. Purchased by Meta in October 2014 for roughly $22bn (£17.8bn), the app has more than two billion users in total and has become a go-to for professional and personal conversations, allowing users to quickly and efficiently trade information, gossip, and jokes. You can use it to send photos, videos, GIFs, voicenotes and more. It is, for all intents and purposes, a lifeline for many of us. But over the years, it has also become the root cause of a significant amount of anxiety, with every new feature introducing us to a new wave of things to worry about.
These include – but are not limited to – seeing when someone you’re talking to is online, knowing when they’re typing a message to you (and knowing when they stop), seeing when they’ve read your message (and therefore chosen not to reply to it), and seeing when someone was last active. Thankfully, you can turn most of these features off. But that won’t necessarily put an end to your worries.
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