(By Kim)

Almost every phone user today has the ubiquitous green and white WhatsApp icon on his home screen. With millions of users worldwide, this instant messaging application offers numerous benefits to its users, and one of which is the Group Chat.

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7 Dos and Don’ts of WhatsApp Group Chat

Recently one of my friends created a WhatsApp group with 50 people across the globe who wanted to read Rick Warren’s best selling book Purpose Driven Life together over a period of 40 days and share what they learned with each other on a daily basis. Everyone was encouraged to give input, ask questions and finally see the biblical perspective. He also provided an incentive to those who were able to finish reading the book in that stipulated time!

I thought that was a wonderful way of utilizing the WhatsApp Group Chat function to add value to people’s lives.

However a word of caution: Group chats can be immensely annoying at times. And if you don’t take guard, they can drain you of your precious time and peace of mind. Below I thought of sharing some Dos and Don’ts of WhatsApp (or any other) group chats:

1. Don’t join every group that you are invited or added to

The more generic the group is, the more the possibility of unwanted messages, while the more specific a group is, the more the possibility of quality communication that you can benefit from. For example:  Joining a ‘working mother’s’ group is always better than joining the ‘Woman’s’ group. Also before joining a group ask yourself – how will it edify me or what value can I add to others’ life through it.

If you are part of a group that sends teasing comments, lewd jokes or unnecessary forwards, it is better to excuse yourself out rather than allow your ears and eyes to be a place where others can dump their trash. And no, nobody will feel bad about it.

From time to time keep coming back to the motive behind creating the group and check whether you as a group admin or member are in line with it.

2. Do use it to encourage one another and build each other up

Use the group chat to speak life over those you are addressing. Build up rather than tear down. Pray for one another and aim to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. A couple of good examples: One friend of mine has created a group called ICU (In Christ Unit) where members can share their urgent prayer requests and pray for one another. Another friend has a group called ‘Pastor’s Wives’ where women in the ministry can share and learn from each other’s lives.

3. Do not get personal

Don’t use chat groups as a medium to pass unnecessary comments or nit-pick one another. Of course you are free to disagree, but never disrespect.  If there is something that you think may not interest other members of the group or may offend someone, share it in a personal WhatsApp chat rather than your common group.

4. Do use it to make a good habit or break a bad one

There is great power in creating habits and breaking habits when you’re surrounded by like minded people. And that’s what WhatsApp group can help you do. For instance if you are struggling to meditate on the Word of God daily, how about creating a group of people facing a similar struggle and then you can daily encourage one and another to break this cycle.

To quote from the bestselling book The Power of Habit: “There’s something really powerful about groups and shared experiences. People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend disbelief.”

5. Do be patient

Initially whenever a group is formed there will be a lot of pings, but be patient. After the initial excitement fades away, that’s when the conversations will become limited. Remember you are dealing with different people here. There will be some in the group who would frequently try to create conversations, while there will be some others who will be silent observers. If your purpose of creating the group is good, don’t give up, keep investing in it.

6. Do not keep pushing Forwards

Forwards are similar to uninvited advertisements and can be a big turn off in a group chat. Sadly many of us don’t even read the long messages we receive and we are quick to hit the forward button. Freely we receive, freely we give!

Limit your forwards to short inspirational videos and images, which have personally blessed you first. When it comes to plain text, make your stories brief and to the point because not all users in your group may have smart phones with reader friendly screens in which case your message may look like a big scroll of text.  And please don’t convince others to “Send the message to 10 people to receive their blessing”.

7. Do not make it your master

Lastly, don’t allow WhatsApp to eat your quiet time with God or even the quality time you spend with your spouse and children. Make an effort to disconnect from WhatsApp during the day and even days together in a week. There are better things in life to do!

What is your experience in dealing with Group Chats? What annoys you the most and how do you handle it?