The Psychology Behind the “Inactive-but-Online” WhatsApp Group Users

WhatsApp is one of the famous mobile applications that has gained immense popularity over the last few years.  Since its inception,  it quickly became the main messaging service for workmates, students, friends and families. It has made communication easier especially with the ease with which people can exchange videos, pictures and audio files with people far away from them.

However amidst all the benefits and addiction, there are groups of peculiar WhatsApp users   emerging that are making WhatsApp groups be regarded as the bane of technology. Scroll through your Whatsapp and you will find them in a couple of swipes, hiding in groups behind the meme machines and the friends who reply so quickly that you may think they are chatbots.

They are what many people are now referring to as WhatsApp lurkers. The silent friends who haven’t fully grasped the concept of Whatsapp of communicating with other people. The little ,glowing blue ticks are proof that they have seen every word, every photo from the weekend “turn-up” @KorogaFestival , every motivational quotes and memes, the latest  juicy gossip links from TUKO BREAKING NEWS – but they haven’t a peep in weeks.

One begins to wonder the point of your friendship or their relevance in the WhatsApp group. You clearly know that their phone has not been lost ( as is the main excuse for blue ticking  someone else) because as they absolutely have zero words to say to you or your friends, they have updated their  Instagram and Twitter accounts over 20 times within the last one week.

These are the kind of people who make online social interactions awkward.  You and your friends may have created a new group titled “Road Trip 2018” and discuss earnestly the plans and itinerary. They opt not to contribute any suggestions because they know they can’t make the trip, instead of leaving the group- which is the courteous thing to do; they beg to be kept informed about every last details. Some of them may even interrupt the conversation with irrelevant jokes and eerily look at the photos you share without adding a comment.

Before heading to a private chat to gossip about them or request the admin to remove the inactive users from your group or create a new group without them, you should know a few things about such people and the possible reasons for their behavior. Philosophers and psychologists urge us not to take behavior at face value; there is always a reason behind people’s behavior.

Sarah Buglass, a lecturer in social and cyber psychology at Nottingham Trent University suggests that these people may be feeling the pressure of FOMO (fear of missing out). She says that having a constant access to our friends via WhatsApp can be a double edged sword. Being in a WhatsApp group can give a sense of belonging and can provide positive reinforcement of self-worth.  However it can also increase social anxiety, lower a person’s self-esteem as well as trigger social media addiction.

For such people, leaving a WhatsApp group would be like declaring they don’t want to be involved in any group activity which could be further from the truth. For them  going incognito  allows them to maintain a social link to the group not only to maintain a sense of belonging but also to indicate to the others  they are interested in being part of the group.

These anti-social WhatsApp group users also find comfort in using WhatsApp as a form of social surveillance. By removing themselves in such groups they risk missing out on socially important information that they could need in the future interactions with the members of the group.

By lurking in the background, these individuals get to monitor the discussions the others engage in the WhatsApp group.  They consider removing themselves from the groups exposes them to potential rumors and gossip about them by the other members of the group. By remaining in the group they can potentially safeguard themselves against potential negative social repercussions.

It may be hard to leave a Whatsapp group because of the various different reasons or personal reasons you may have but it’s not healthy to lurk in the background.  Find a social media platform that you feel the most comfortable communicating from.

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