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Goodbye, WhatsApp

I’ve deleted WhatsApp from my personal smartphone. I’m not saying I’m not using it anymore; I’m just saying I’ll now use it when I decide to, via WhatsApp Web, on both my smartphone and computer. I’ll give it a batched usage as I do with emails and other social media. Let’s break down why I took that decision.

The base premise: I’m very protective of my time and attention, and I have a weakness of getting hooked up in social media features (the kind of things Nir Eyal wrote in his book Hooked).

My central pain point: WhatsApp default product decisions are high pain points for me, and most of them cannot be worked around; most don’t have settings. It’s not related to privacy; I accept all cookies always; I don’t care. However, their product decisions make me feel treated like cattle. It’s infuriating for me, honestly.

For those who say they cannot afford to do it because of network effects, I understand. I migrated the most people I could to other messaging apps. They understood and agreed. I won’t feel alienated, my WhatsApp was already a desert anyway.

Let’s navigate my feelings and features I dislike associated with WhatsApp as a product:

  • The calls/video calls feature opened the can of worms of people from time to time trying to get ahold of me. It cannot be disabled.
  • I’ve educated people not to call me randomly. They understood, yet the possibility remains. It cannot be disabled.
  • It became yet another social network:
    • It has statuses: I don’t want to spend more time on social media updates from my social circle. I muted everyone, and I still manually checked muted statuses. It cannot be disabled.
    • It got channels: I couldn’t care less about the local soccer/football club nor local music stars. I disagreed with being enabled, and when I activated WhatsApp on my old phone, it became enabled by default. It cannot be disabled.
  • Related to statuses: Muted statuses are still in front of you to be expanded into a list of items. The whole point of muting people is to make them invisible to you forever.
    • They briefly had this setting where muted statuses were accessible on a top-right item menu item, I applauded it. They backpedalled on it a few days later to the expandable list, which drove me up the wall that day.
  • I regularly practice disconnection by enabling Airplane Mode for a few hours, and WhatsApp still pops a random notification of “Checking new messages” many times.
  • Businesses now have chatbots on WhatsApp, which I don’t find acceptable. I strongly disagree with the trend that chatting with a self-service bot is easier and faster.
    • Most chatbots are misconfigured, so this is not entirely WhatsApp’s fault, but enabling the possibility of having a lousy experience seems fishy to me.
  • It doesn’t have cloud backups: Whenever I switch phones, I lose all my conversations. I reckon I can save some backups in Google Drive and locally, but I’d instead not leave my conversation history in places where it can be snatched out as a single file, even if they are encrypted.

With time, my uneasiness with these hostile behaviours grew until I snapped yesterday and suddenly deleted it.

I don’t fit the mould of “most people”, so highly opinionated products like WhatsApp aren’t for me. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure I must not be the only one feeling like this.

I don’t expect this post to reach higher-ups at WhatsApp and realize they have misaligned incentives that make people feel this way about their product. This situation has been brewing for me for many years now. I just needed to communicate it and explore opinions.

Until next time,

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