New technology opens up new possibilities. One of the things my recent phone upgrade (to a Nokia 5) facilitates is a suitable platform for accessing apps I had’t considered in the past. One of the consequences is that, linked in with helping at this year’s Soul Survivor trip, I’m now also linked into the youth group’s WhatsApp group.
What is WhatsApp? It is a communications platform which places an emphasis on security and has tools to easily integrate images and videos. I can see a lot of similarities with programs like MSN Messenger (originally released before our current set of young people were born!). It gets a lot of traffic – if I had data services turned on more often, I think I would have to mute alerts from the youth discussion channel.
As an old hand, there is a lot that isn’t new. For example, although most of the group are signed up to the channel, there are definitely active participants, occasional participants and lurkers who I’ve never seen post anything. However, I note that this is a different cross section to those who actively participate in face to face meetings; open more channels and draw in more participation overall. As with any discourse, sometimes you have to think about what you put in – for example, tonight I ended up posting a message which consisted of just a couple of emojis. I don’t think I’m fluent in the language yet but sometimes you’ve got to take a chance in trying a different way of communicating if you want to stretch your boundaries.
Online communication can be fraught with problems and is often misused but, in the case of this group, I think it is working well and I feel privileged to hang out there with the group (even if I’m old enough to remember when online chat was done in University computer labs packed with green screen text terminals!).