Clerick John Preston


Remember how you’d be at a party on New Year’s Eve and right at midnight, among the huggers and kissers, would be those hastening towards the least noisiest space with phone on one ear, and the other covered by a hand in attempt to block the sound around them.

Ridiculous as they looked doing that, someone out there missed them enough to give them a ring, just a few minutes into the fresh year. Given that the individual calling manged to get through, because lines would be saturated by incoming and outgoing calls and texts from all over.

That scenario sounds like folklore now, looking at how most people received, if any, good wishes for the New Year. Seven years ago or so, I would make and receive a surplus of phone calls at and after the stroke of midnight, from family, friends and some unexpected people I hadn’t spoken to in a long while. This would continue through the night and the actual first day of the year.

“…a call is Platinum. Receiving a text message is Gold, a WhatsApp text is Silver and the status messages take the Bronze.”

Over the years the phone calls have dwindled, with most people opting to text. It’s a generational thing I guess, these communication preferences that we have. Millennials detest making phone calls, this is largely because “This generation grew up with the gradual introduction of instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of written communication,” a Forbes article on How Millennials prefer to Communicate states.

From Mxit, Mig33, BBM, 2GO and a glut of other social platforms, we’ve been exposed to the rapid exchange of texts, dating back to our school days. But in modern times, a decade this year to be precise, WhatsApp has been leading the pack being by far the most convenient, accessible and affordable platform for people to communicate. And by people I mean Generation X, Y, Z, some Baby Boomers and those in the Silent Generation- that’s the impact WhatsApp has had on how people generally communicate today.

WhatsApp was launched in 2009 by ex-Yahoo! employees, Jan Koum and Brian Acton. Through the popular messaging and Voice over IP service now owned by Facebook, one can send text messages, voice calls, recorded voice messages, video calls, images, documents, and user location without being restricted to the number of contacts since it just requires you to just have someone’s cell phone number on your contact list.

It’s estimated that WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users in over 180 countries. Above 65 billion messages are sent via the App daily. It’s also proven popular among groups of friends, family, colleagues, stokvels and others that add to the total of over a billion WhatsApp clusters.  With only 50 employees.

As WhatsApp grows in numbers, so it does in its functionality too. The introduction of the Status Update has brought much contention among people. It’s either you really like it or it plainly irritates you. Those who the status’ affect results in the latter, will hate it now as pop-up ads are set to be introduced on the App this year.

But I was quite taken aback by how things transpired last week as we entered 2019. Affection came through measly and unambiguous status messages that read “No one sent me a text, so I’m also gonna just say Happy New Year to All!!” or through a video, capturing whatever they’re doing.

In the times we’re in, a call is Platinum. Receiving a text message is Gold, a WhatsApp text is Silver and the status messages take the Bronze.  I received and reciprocated to texts after midnight this year, but dololo Platinum.

Because of the torrent of rain we experienced in Gauteng, I expected lines to be clogged up, assuming most people would be unwinding indoors but it seems no one bothered to make any calls. If a call came in, it was through WhatsApp’s video call. Even most friends and family weren’t moved enough dial someone’s number.

The older generation, specifically the Generation X, Baby Boomers and survivors of the Silent Generation tend to initiate communication,out of concern that comes with aging, juxtaposed to the Generations that succeed them. The further we head this direction, the more numb we become to things that should move us in some way. Our world is slowly becoming the emotionless world that troubled Clerick John Preston in the Equilibrium movie.

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