It's been more than 2 months now since I stayed off WhatsApp.
Not by choice though. Long story short - my phone suddenly died without any warning. A permanent death. I bought a new phone and synced all my data (contacts, apps, google pics, etc) to it. However, the last time I did a "cloud backup" of my WhatsApp data was more than 3 years ago!
Yeah, that was stupid of me.
If I install WhatsApp on my new phone now, I won't be able to retrieve the past 3 years' data as it is lying as a "local backup" in my dead phone. And with the battery and USB charging port of my old phone no longer functioning, the only way to retrieve that local backup file (without dismantling my phone and accessing the hard drive by brute force) is to replace the battery and USB port (which involves some amount of dismantling as well, but not as complicated).
Call me sentimental, but I like to treasure past moments. Those 3 years' data are precious to me, especially the part when I quit my job in the corporate sector and all the messages my girlfriend and I exchanged. Installing WhatsApp on my new phone without that will create a completely new backup file without any of those messages.
And yes, XDA developers forum did post a method to merge two different local backups, but the process is quite complicated, so I've decided to wait until I can retrieve my old backup file before I start using WhatsApp again.
Hence, the reason why I'm not on WhatsApp for more than 2 months now.
Since I'm not on WhatsApp, some of you might assume that I'm being arrogant or inchhuang for not replying to your messages (not that I receive many messages anyway).
I received a few calls from friends and cousins during the past 2 months, asking me why I didn't reply to their messages on WhatsApp. My dear childhood friend and neighbour Muansanga (from our RYDERS group) even confronted me the other day while I was shopping for groceries at our local market, sternly asking me why I had blocked him on WhatsApp! :D
Once again, I had to explain that I didn't block anyone or ignore any messages.
Replacing a phone battery and other components is not as easy as it once used to be. Remember the good old days of monophonic ringtones and Nokia 3310 when we could just remove our phone battery any time we want? Good times.
Most smartphones of today no longer have a detachable battery, because having an integrated battery helps in making the phone slimmer, lighter, tighter, faster, cheaper and safer. A small price to pay for technological improvement.
The downside is that the only way to replace a phone battery now is to:
(1.) Give it to a repair shop or authorized service centre (which I don't feel secure about because of the amount of sensitive data and passwords stored in my phone)
(2.) Go to a friend who knows how to do this and ask him to replace it in front of you (which is hard for me because I don't know such people, and even if I do, commute is restricted by the lockdowns and my work at the farm)
And finally (3.) Do it yourself by purchasing a new battery and watching YouTube tutorials on how to replace it (which is again risky because it isn't a very simple procedure, and most of the batteries sold online are unreliable. On top of that, online shopping deliveries to Mizoram were also closed for many months due to the pandemic and Assam border issue)
Because of all those hassles, I'm living life without WhatsApp for now.
So, how does it feel like to live without WhatsApp?
I know, this question may seem ridiculous or even sound privileged, but the fact is, unlike other social media networks, WhatsApp has become a necessity today.
One can stay away from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media if you really want to, as they are just additional entertainment and distractions to your life (unless you're using them as the main source of communication for your start-up venture). There may be some amount of FOMO - the Fear Of Missing Out, but it is not that big of a deal to disconnect or deactivate one's account.
However, WhatsApp has been integrated so deeply into our daily lives now that it has become almost impossible to live without it. Today, WhatsApp is the number 1 messaging app used globally, and according to statisca, there are more than 2 billion active users every month.
In India alone, there are currently more than 390 million active users on WhatsApp according to backlinko, and the total number of Indians on WhatsApp including the not very active ones is estimated to be more than 500 million.
I still remember when WhatsApp was first launched in India back in 2010. That was during the dark era of Blackberry supremacy, when BB users would look down upon us Android fanboys, mocking us with their irritating and snobbish voices in a demeaning way.
They were so freaking proud of their BBMs (their Blackberry exclusive messenger service), talking about it at almost every opportunity they came across. Pitch meeting? BBM. Football match? BBM. Romantic dinner? BBM. Funeral rites? BBM. I'm sure that was what Blackberry users used to scream out during sex too, "Ahhhh... OMG... I'm coming... BBM... BBM... BBM!!!"
And so you can imagine my joy when WhatsApp was launched for us Android users, the geeky minority. But back then, in 2010, it wasn't popular yet. In fact, I only had FOUR contacts to chat with on WhatsApp for a very long time! Two of them were my colleagues at work (Vishnu and Abbas, my fellow Android brothers-in-arm at office) and the other two were my Mumbai Mizo friends TBC-a and Mapuia (MBA-a).
That was it. Just 4 people to chat with on WhatsApp. :D
Yeah, WhatsApp had come a long way since then.
Today it is so difficult to stay away from WhatsApp. It's no longer about socializing and leisure chit-chat timepass, people are now actually using it for work and other official purposes.
As cheaper smartphones and affordable data plans penetrate even the most rural corners of our country, WhatsApp's user base is growing at an exponential rate. Even back at my farm in Neihbawih, all my neighbouring farmers including the daily labourers and farmhands all use WhatsApp now.
In fact, I swear I saw some of the cows and pigs around my farm chatting on WhatsApp the other day. :P
Jokes aside, the popularity of WhatsApp within our Mizo community is astronomical.
Almost everybody is on multiple WhatsApp groups here in Mizoram today, from the different Church-based groups to YMA groups, family groups, association groups, department groups, union groups, trade groups, office groups, student groups, teacher groups, information groups, initiative groups, etc etc., not to mention the thousands of friendship-based groups. Any news or information is quickly transmitted through this medium.
Even in my locality Chaltlang, all important information like the distribution of ration or gas, funeral announcement, vaccination drive, latest CoVid-19 news, and lockdown SOPs are all announced through our "official" locality WhatsApp groups.
So yes, I am missing out on ALL that because of my exclusion from WhatsApp. I have become so out of touch with the latest Mizoram news or gossips that I'm feeling like a hermit living in a cave. But at the same time, I've never experienced this much peace and tranquillity in a looong time too. Ignorance is bliss, they say. How true.
Like for example, I only learned about the recent Mizoram-Assam border clash 2-3 days later, lolz. And by the time I caught up with the news and wrote my 3-part blog post series debunking the lies made against Mizoram, the situation was already resolved and people had already moved on to other topics, lolzzz.
Yeah, that was sad.
But there is one reason I'm quite relieved about not being on WhatsApp, and that is the rise of the "WhatsApp uncles and aunties". These are people who forward blatant lies and distorted facts at the touch of a button without making any attempt to verify them first, all because it is "easy to do so".
I've been on Twitter long enough to know that this is a trend across not just India but worldwide as well. We mockingly call such people "WhatsApp University graduates". :D
The amount of misinformation such people spread through WhatsApp is astonishing. And I'm not just talking about people forwarding this fake news to their respective groups. Some of them actually take the time to translate such nonsense to Mizo, word by word, sometimes spanning 30-40 paragraphs, and then forward them to different Mizo groups. Damn.
Yeah, some people really do have too much time in their hands. Literally.
I'm just glad I don't have to read all those misinformation because of my hiatus from WhatsApp, as I sometimes tend to get "triggered" on reading such absurd lies. It's extremely relieving to stay away from all that, to be honest. And yes, there's a term for that apparently, and it's called JOMO - the Joy Of Missing Out.
[image credit: The Oatmeal]
Online delivery to Mizoram had finally opened again last week and I ordered a new OnePlus 6 battery (BLP657) and USB Charging Board Port Flex Cable, along with a tool kit comprising of suction, magnetizer, demagnetizer and set of anti-static screwdrivers. Let's hope the battery and charging port aren't defective, fingers crossed.
There's a rumour going on that OnePlus will be offering free battery replacement, but I'm sure this will take some more time even if it's true, and anyway, there are currently no OnePlus outlets in Mizoram, so this is a useless announcement for me.
If all goes well, I will be back on WhatsApp again soon. Hoping to see you all on my next post. Stay blessed and take care, everyone.