Last week I ‘lefted’ a number of WhatsApp groups. I left one of the groups as soon as I noticed I had been added. The others I had been hanging in there, reading people’s comments without getting involved. But after leaving the group I had just been added, I decided, like the African Statesman I am, to leave all the groups I was not active in. That will certainly be an example to the African Union on how they can leave the ICC en masse, instead of issuing threats every year while dozing and sipping Ethiopian coffee in Addis Ababa.
Lefting a WhatsApp group is not easy. The techs in Silicon Valley ensured that you can’t leave quietly, you have to bang the door behind you. The people who did not even know you were in the group now suddenly notice you as you exit. These tech characters did not even provide a way for you to consider whether you want to be in the group or not. You just wake up one morning and find yourself there. And it doesn’t help matters that you are often added by those friends and acquaintances who are likely to catch feelings when you leave.
There are many ways you find yourself in a WhatsApp group. Picture this. I am in the office. It is around 3pm, when my concentration levels are lowest. This is the hour I usually have to use all my energies to concentrate, especially if the task at hand is the more boring aspects of transactional lawyering. Those are the types of assignments I prefer to do early in the morning or late in the evening, when my head is clear and I am not easily distracted. But deadlines have to be met, so now and then I find myself doing them at that hour. I decide to take a break. Between 2pm and 4 pm I take more breaks than the rest of the day put together. My phone has been vibrating for a while so it is the first order of business in my break. I notice I have 263 messages. What do you mean! I checked WhatsApp 20 minutes ago and cleared all the messages. So I click the green button:
Samson and the Donkey’s Jaw-243 messages
Baraka Kaa Zote formed group.
Baraka Kaa Zote added you.
Then there are a hundred other additions and people thanking Zote for adding them.
Zote will then make an introduction:
“Karibuni nyote. I just thought we should hangout, network and get to know each other. You know networking is everything these days. You can post your ideas here. Cheers.”
I am a bit disappointed. I thought we are forming a business empire to export jawbones of donkeys from the illegal slaughterhouses in Nakuru to Israel. I mean, if we have a good marketing team to convince the Jews that the donkey whose jaw Samson used to kill the Philistines had come from Africa and was therefore the ancestor of the Kenyan donkey, I am sure they would buy the jaws from Nakuru in plenty. Especially considering their current problems in Palestine. But no, this admin just wants to network.
I am not exactly sure what I should say in the group. I can’t say ‘I am blessed to be here’ like a good Christian because, in all honesty, I have no idea why I am here. Zote is an acquaintance. We met at some youth camp, and after getting to know each other during the camp, we exchanged numbers. We have since kept in touch on Facebook, liking each other’s posts and commenting now and then. But I did not even know he still had my number. I mean, the phone in which I had saved his number was stolen in a matatu on my way from Eastleigh, a year after we met. And that was three years ago. Anyway, I scroll down the group. A few of my friends are there, but the rest are total strangers.
I put my phone aside and get back to work. During my next break, I notice I have 155 messages. Same group. Apparently, some people here know each other, and are catching up. Okay. The day passes as I watch this group establish itself. In the evening, just before I sleep, I check WhatsApp and read all the messages. Yet in the morning, while in the Matatu going to work, I notice I have 700 messages. Yea you guessed right. 602 are from Samson and the Donkey’s Jaw. These people are nocturnals as well. They have spent the night exchanging jokes (some lewd) and posting photos and videos (most of which I have seen in 7 other groups).
That is where I decide enough is enough. I mean, I have nothing against networking, but this group is adding no value in my life, other than filling my memory space with videos I already have. And so I bang the door and left. That perhaps marks the end of my cordial acquaintance with Zote, but it is a reasonable price to pay for my peace and quiet.
Or perhaps I happened to attend a fellowship one Saturday afternoon. I probably just bumped into a friend going there and he invited me. And since my afternoon plot was idling around the house reading the Saturday Nation, I thought, why not? Going there I find there are a couple of other people I know, but the rest are strangers, who I get introduced to. We really have an awesome time of worship. My, this worship team is on point! Their choice of music leaves me on the verge of tears. Then we have a Bible study. Nothing tickles me like a Bible study. Within a few minutes, I am discussing with them like I was one of the founders of the group. If you heard me addressing them by their names, you would not imagine I had just been introduced to them. You would think we ate bush meat and bitter herbs together during the Mau Mau uprising. So we end the fellowship on a high note. There are refreshments. Soda, cake, popcorn, biscuits and potato crisps. Then there is a paper going round where people are writing their names and phone numbers. Without thinking, I follow suit.
That evening I notice I have 299 messages on WhatsApp from The Walk to Emmaus. When did I walk to Emmaus again? When I open I see ‘Sir Heavenly Abednego added you’. I don’t know anyone by that name so I check his photo. I realize it is an acquaintance from campus who I knew as Abednego Murianki, before he was knighted and re-baptized into divine nomenclature. It then occurs to me that I Walked to Emmaus that afternoon when I attended the fellowship. So in this group people are posting Bible verses, sermons by their favorite pastors, quotes that apply in their lives, blogposts (you can share this one as well) etc. Again, I lefted the group.
Christian groups are the hardest to leave. I think it flows from our socialization. We are taught that Christian meetings take precedence over everything else. It doesn’t matter how many you have attended today, if one is called now you have to be there. So if I skip a Sunday afternoon meeting in Church to take a girl out for lunch, I have committed a cardinal sin. Yet I had been attending Christian meetings every day of the week, and of course done my personal devotion faithfully. Nah, no one should send another on a guilty trip because of skipping a meeting. If you intend to get married you have to find time and take someone out. I have led Christian groups and called meetings so take it from me. Your faith has little to do with the number of meetings you attend in a day.
It is the same with the WhatsApp group. If you left a Christian WhatsApp group some imagine you are losing your faith. Relax buddies. Point is, I am in a million Christian groups, and there is a limit to how many I can be in. So when I attend your fellowship, please do not be in a hurry to add me to your WhatsApp group. At the very least, ask me first.
And that applies to every other group. Before you sit on your couch and decide to add me to a group you have just formed, please give me a call first, and let’s talk about it. If I say no, then let the matter drop buddy. But if you add me without my consent, do not catch feelings when I left the group. It’s nothing personal. I just happen to have a life outside WhatsApp.