Sanjeev Kotnala: What type of Whatsapp university student are you?

21 Jun,2017

By Sanjeev Kotnala


There are many who hate ‘Whatsapp’ and many who swear by it. For few, it is a cause of anxiety and for some the way out of loneliness. Yes, there is a lot that happens on Whatsapp. And a great deal more can happen over Whatsapp. Every parent of 10th and 12th class students in India hates it and yet in many places it has been used as an education enhancement tool. Every couple complains about it and then bonds over it! It is a magic wand.

Since WHATSAPP has come into life, it is an unexplained circus. In one moment, you are romantic and the next moment is a surge of patriotic emotions. Immediately after that comes Sunny Leone. You know what kind of mess you are in. Even before one could recover, someone pushes four lines from Swami Vivekananda. It is followed by some frustrated soul sharing jokes in an attempt to make you smile. The moment you find peace and stabilise, there is that threatening message of some god- or Saint, which you need to forward to 10 people in your network for instant good luck. Failure to do so will make unexplained unsaid things happen to your life. Meanwhile, someone has found a decently crooked quiz or puzzle to send you in a differential chase… this fast vignette of emotions and feelings can only be experienced for Whatsapp… whenever you open it… it seems like the mythical ocean of unfathomable knowledge… I bow my head in respect to all the knowledge sharers in the world of Whatsapp. I don’t know what I could have done without you. (This is a translation of a message received in my timeline)

In fact. It reminds me of a saying in Hindi. It loosely translated would mean, ‘the knife – you could use it to cut vegetables or to harm someone. The choice is always yours.’ It is true for double edged swords like social platforms, including Whatsapp.

Whatsapp is the new-generation information sharing tool. It is just one of the many channels to achieve faster uninterrupted real-time communication. It carries text, images, videos and audio with least distortion. It is free and unlimited. The 256 group member limitation is a boon too. It is accessible on WiFi network without a data plan, all of it and more on a simple device called mobile. It also has a smooth web avatar for PC and laptop screens. Which makes it a true anywhere anytime resource.

Corporate teams leverage closed group interaction, that too with data encryption. Companies adapt Whatsapp for quicker knowledge transfer across the organisation. It is an apt tool for real-time status updates. In some places even educators have used it as a real-time link between learner, facilitator and information.

It is hard to believe that the successful social media platform is just eight years young. It was in 2009 when Jan Koum and Brian Acton created it. In 2014, Facebook paid $19 billion for it. Today, it is the second largest social media platform with more than 1.2 billion monthly active users (MAU), seventy per cent of them using it daily. Across 180 countries, 50 million-plus messages fly over Whatsapp every day.

Whatsapp is a necessity in life. This highly addictive platform has advantages like convenience, being cost-efficient and real-time messaging. However, it is known and blamed for negatively impacting the intensity and frequency of in-person interactions.

There is so fluid exchange of authenticated knowledge in suspension of fake and unverified information. It is possible to be misled from multiple interpretations, point-of-views and stances scrolling on your screen. The radicals and lenient, the moulded and ready, the prolific commentator and the spectators; all find it easy to be heard on Whatsapp. A study of messages traded on Whatsapp can help us understand the attitude of the mobile owner. Here are some stark examples.

THE PUSHER. He collates and shares content with every group and individual in his network. He is not bothered about the authenticity of content, need and interest of receiver and the possible impact.

Some of them suffer from FFF (fastest finger first) challenge. They push content immediately on receipt. They are members of irrelevant groups only to keep the funnel of ‘content to push’ wide open. Just to ensure you do get the message, they will send content to you in the group and individual account too. They are unbiased in selection of the content to push. Their biggest fear is to someone else will share the content before them. FFF is a religion for them.

In their college and friends’ network, they are responsible for enriching the collective intellect by providing interesting content.

THE CURATOR. They are serious about Whatsapp. They are selective in sharing the content. They do not just cut-paste or push content. They always add or delete from the original content. When you get a video content from them, it comes with a clear descriptor and recommendation.

CREATORS. A fast disappearing breed. With so much freely available, who wants to create something fresh. Few remaining creators are found in companies with interest in data and content sharing. They have business need to seed fresh content. Whatsapp survives on discovered, borrowed or re-circulated content.

THE TAU. They are the advisors, only interested in answering queries and facilitating others’ existence in this planet earth. They are hugely passionate in their resolve to solving issues and problems. They selflessly work toward making other members feel better.

THE BUDDHA. They believe sharing ‘Good Morning’ messages with a picture of rose, god or a smiling beautiful face is all it takes to have a good start to the day. They share pre-indexed, mostly borrowed and mutated motivating thoughts to bring a change in this world! They expect to be seen in a different light. Coaches, trainers and facilitators dominate this category. With nothing much to share, they share to remain in circulation.

THE GURU. They have links and extracts for any question you may dream of. They are the one with fastest 4G network and an operating system that is cutting edge. They try impressing with a series of (some time even distilled ) information bullet’s firing faster than ‘James Green alias Sudden’. Guru of today’s generation, go find who ‘Sudden’ was.

THE ADMINISTRATORS. These are people with polarised attitude. This is the only important role in their lives. Some lonely types live in the reflected glory of being an admin. This is nearest they come to managing life.

The genuine administrators create groups and passionately work toward realizsing the objectives. A rare breed of administrators work towards a real benefit to the community. The IIM Alumni network, the EXPERT networks, The CSR and even HR group administrators fall in this subset.

THE BROADCASTER. For them, it is god-sent business tool. They use it for frequent business opportunity realisation. They share less but at a pre-defined frequency. The content is overloaded with their views, blogs/website links, personal achievement and developments.

This breed is dedicated and different than the pushers. They mostly share judiciously, and the content is most likely curated from other platforms. They are good storytellers and look forward to using Whatsapp as an image changer.

THE SILENT MEDIATOR. They do exist. It needs and keen eye to observe them. They silently observe conversations in the group. At a relevant moment, they participate. The interaction happens in bursts. Once exhausted, they are like a dormant volcano.

THE INSTIGATOR. They are bored with an excitement devoid life. For their daily dose of excitement, they selectively venture into group conversation on Whatsapp. They take polarised positions with radical statements, insensitive jokes, half-baked informations and then wait for others to clean the mess.

Whatsapp is a complex behavorial matrix. People demonstrate a range of traits based on need of the situation and who they are interacting with. Nevertheless, a short observation of timeline is good enough to identify their major Whatsapp religion. So what is your type? If you have a different take or discover a new category, do write to me, and we will collectively expand the understanding.


BONUS. WHATSAPP is a time guzzler. It is addictive. Checking for non-existent updates with notification turned off is a fast-spreading epidemic. If you have more unfinished work than before, the answer most likely is in your social media and e-mail usage habits. Trust me, if there is really something important, people will reach out and call you. Phones were primarily meant for it.

DEFINE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SLOTS. Switch on WiFi and data exchange only when you need them. Schedule your social media interaction slots. Indulge in it at these predefined slots and never go back more than two-screen length to check what you missed. You will find extra energy without the health supplements.

Believe it or not, there are few lucky ‘Whatsapp negative’ people. They represent an endangered tribe of digital laggards without activated Whatsapp. They constantly fantasizse about Whatsapp. However, they are hesitant to make the first move.


Sanjeev Kotnala has over 30 years of corporate experience and is founder of Intradia World, a brand, marketing and management advisory. Additionally, he focusses on ideation, innovation, design thinking and BRAND-i (be the brand). Email tweet @s_kotnala web:


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