Friday, January 22, 2016


WhatsApp chat groups are getting increasingly popular with seniors. It's super easy to start a chat group, and it definitely saves the hassle of communicating with people individually on common topics. But on the downside, being in one too many WhatsApp groups can be time-wasting and a source of annoyance too.

To ensure all participants derive maximum benefit from WhatsApp groups, here are some basic etiquette to observe.

DO's and DONT's

For the group administrator:

#1. Choose an appropriate name for the chat group. 
      Put some thought into it. The same applies to selecting the group image. A ukulele chat group, for example, is meant for posts relating to ukulele, and not for discussion on the latest cancer cure or other topics. A Memory Lane chat group is obviously to share content relating to the good old days, and not to post current political news.

#2. Always ask for permission before adding someone.
      Don't assume that your friends have no objection to being included. They may already be in dozens of chat groups, and certainly won't welcome being added to another one without their consent. I was once added to a Lion Dance chat group without prior notice. I wouldn't mind a Line Dance chat group as I enjoy line dancing, but LION dance?!

#3. Add only people that you know.
      Strangers are ok if they share common interests with the group. For example, for a dementia caregivers' chat group, it is alright to add bona fide caregivers even though you may not know them personally.

Limit the size of your chat group to keep it manageable.

#4. Keep the group small
      Limit the size to 30 participants. The bigger the number, the tougher it is to manage the group. You may have more problems to deal with, and more alerts interrupting your day too.

#5. Set the rules from the start. 
      State what content is encouraged or disallowed. Make it clear that anyone who continues to post insensitive or irrelevant content despite being warned, will be removed or blocked from the group.

#6. Delete the chat group.
      Once the sole purpose of setting up the chat group is achieved, inform the participants you will be deleting the group. If they want it to remain, you can decide whether to carry on, or exit and let someone else take over as administrator.


For chat group participants:

#1. Participate. Contribute. 
      Don't be a silent, passive observer. Get involved in the chat or discussion. Your views matter. And if the administrator calls for feedback on something, or poses a question, participants should respond. Otherwise, why remain in the group?

#2. Don't spam. 
      Don't flood the group with advertisements and sales pitch. Don't ask others to forward a link, or share your post with 12 others. Leave it to them to decide.

#3. Limit your images and videos.
      Think twice before you share 20 photos of your company's annual dinner or 100 images of your recent trip to Hawaii. One or two should be enough. More is an overdose and a big turn-off. Remember, all images and videos posted on WhatsApp are automatically stored in your phone gallery or album. They take up enormous storage space. You have to manually delete them to free up space, or change your WhatsApp settings to manually select what you want to save. The best place to post lots of photos and videos is on your own Facebook page.

Always check for credibility of the news item before you post it on your WhatsApp chat groups. Make sure you also read the article first before you share it with others. 

#4. Always verify your source of info.
      This applies in particular to news items, health remedies and medical claims that you post in the chat group. When an unverified post goes viral, it may cause undue fear or damage. Be known as a source of reliable info than a dispenser of false news.

#5. Agree to disagree. 
      There's no need to get heated up if others don't agree with your views. You will only upset others if you start calling them names or making sarcastic remarks. For all you know, others may have complained about you to the group administrator.

#6. Be sensitive.
      This applies to groups with participants from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Be mindful that what you think is funny may be offensive to others. Show respect and consideration for others in your choice of postings, whether in words, images or videos. Repeated offenders may face the ignominy of being removed by the group administrator.

#7. Post at decent hours.
      No one wants to be constantly disturbed by chat alerts. It can be so annoying, especially if the alerts come in the wee hours of the morning. Not everyone can turn off their phone or put it in silent mode when they sleep, as they may have to be on the alert for emergency calls.

#8. Avoid one-to-one chats. 
      This is a GROUP chat, not a one-to-one exchange. Others may not be interested in your personal conversation or discussion. Take it elsewhere where you have more privacy.

The intention may be good and sincere, but after seeing similar images posted on all your chat groups every day, you start getting that feeling of surfeit.

#9. Limit 'Good Morning' images to one a day.
      Preferably the group administrator should do this on behalf of the group. Otherwise there will be a deluge of posts all wishing everyone 'Good Morning'! The same goes for inspirational images. Keep them to a daily minimum, unless your group's main objective is to inspire or support one another.

#10. Abide by the rules of etiquette.
      This is important if everyone is to benefit from being in the group. If any participant finds the rules ridiculous or stifling, he can always choose to exit the group voluntarily.

There is always the option to exit a group if you are not happy with it, and join another group that may appeal to you more.

NOTE: Before readers give a thumbs down to the above DOs and DONTs, note they are meant for professional, academic and/or official WhatsApp groups. For informal chat groups of family members, relatives and friends, anything goes. No rules apply, as the main objective is to keep in touch, share and have FUN! 

(Article by Lily Fu)