UNPOPULAR OPINION: “Viewing status” is not communication: How Gambians must stop the shameful trend

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As Gambians, are we truly aware of the subliminal effects of our WhatsApp status updates? The purpose of this op-ed is to spark a conversation about the state of communication among Gambians and the subconscious shift to WhatsApp status updates. It’s time to ditch the status update syndrome and to start communicating like the compassionate and empathetic people we truly are. It is a sad state of affairs when we rely on something as trivial as a WhatsApp status update to gauge the well-being of our loved ones. And yet, it has become a common practice, not just in The Gambia, but in many parts of the world.

The reality is that in Gambia, genuine communication is becoming a thing of the past. Instead of picking up the phone and calling a friend or family member, many Gambians have become reliant on checking their WhatsApp status updates as a means of communication. Are we really getting the full picture of our loved ones’ lives by simply scrolling through their status updates? It’s time to take a closer look at the impact of this behaviour and consider whether it’s really serving our needs as social beings.

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This shift to using status updates has led to a subliminal effect where people only feel connected to those they see on their screens, and real-life connections are slowly fading away.

The ease and convenience of this technology have made us complacent, taking away our natural inclination to check on one another, and leaving us with a mere digital imprint of our lives. It is a symptom of a society that has lost touch with its humanity, a society that has become more concerned with appearances than substance.
Firstly, relying solely on someone’s WhatsApp status to gauge their well-being is a clear sign of laziness and a lack of care. It is indicative of a society that values instant gratification and minimal effort over real connections and meaningful relationships.

When someone only communicates with us through our WhatsApp status, it’s a sign that they’re not really interested in connecting with us on a deeper level.

We assume that if someone’s status is active, then they must be doing well. But this is a dangerous assumption to make. We cannot rely on technology to replace the warmth and empathy that comes with a genuine conversation. It is shameful and disrespectful to reduce our interactions with loved ones via mere status updates.
The truth is, genuine communication is essential to our emotional and psychological well-being. We need to learn how to connect with people on a deeper level, to show empathy, and to offer support when it’s needed. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by the instant gratification that comes with a status update. We need to be intentional about our communication, to take the time to reach out to those around us and to truly connect with them.

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Another observation that has become prevalent in our society is the panic that ensues when someone sees your WhatsApp status update after perhaps failing to return your call or text message. This behaviour is a clear indication of how we have allowed technology to control our lives, making us anxious and insecure in our interactions. It also shows a lack of consideration for the other person’s time and privacy, as it assumes that they must be available at all times.
Furthermore, it is disheartening to see how people reply to WhatsApp status updates with unrelated comments, such as commenting on a TikTok video you posted and asking how you are doing in the same message. This behaviour is not only disrespectful but also highlights how we have become so superficial in our interactions. We are more interested in ourselves and our own interests, rather than genuinely engaging with one another. It shows a lack of empathy and consideration for the other person’s feelings, reducing our interactions to mere formality.

As we come to the end of this op-ed, it’s important to acknowledge that the world is constantly evolving, and with it, so are our modes of communication. However, we must not let these changes erode the foundation of genuine communication, which is the heart of any thriving relationship. It is time for us to reclaim the art of conversation and reconnect with our loved ones in a meaningful way. We must move beyond the digital realm and embrace the richness of human interaction. We must check on one another, show empathy, and support each other through difficult times.

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