In 2019, while on a visit to the city I grew up in, I ran into a former grade school classmate whom I had not seen in many years. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, phone contacts and promises to keep in touch, he informed me that our former high school classmates had a WhatsApp group. Considering I left this particular school after middle school, this information did not excite me. As we were about to part ways and return to our individual existences, he quickly produced his cellphone and informed me he had added me to the group; this still did not excite me.
Moments later, my phone began exploding with messages from people I attended grade school with. They were informing me of how great it was to “see” me and peppered me with questions of my whereabouts since the 1980’s. A sudden wave of nostalgia flooded my being and suddenly I became mildly excited. As the days and weeks progressed, I found myself reconnecting with friends and acquaintances of the 70’s and 80’s. We exchanged memories of elementary, grade school and middle school, but, there was one problem; my memories ended after 8th grade because I went to another school.
Given my gift of gab (yes, I grew up in an era where we actually had conversations with each other as opposed to communicating via emoji’s), I found myself being an active member of the group. It was great reading the “Good morning” messages each day and scrolling through the inspirational quotes members were posting…I was now super excited and integrated this group into my daily routine. Then I noticed a problem. The daily participation in the group was coming from the same group of people. I began to notice that some would post their morning greetings and then disappear until the following morning. I began to get concerned…was I recruited into a fantasy? A few months in, due to my heavy participation and determination to keep the group active (did I mention that it may have been nepotism as my cousin is a founding member of the group?), I found myself appointed as a group administrator. In hindsight, I likened this to being appointed the captain of a sinking ship. My excitement rapidly began waning.
As the months progressed, I found that keeping this group alive was becoming a chore. I found myself rushing to check my phone when I woke up because there were periodic escapes from the group that occurred between 11pm and 4am. I always felt a wave of failure when I saw that horrific message, “XXX-XXXX has left”. By now, my excitement was totally gone. I constantly checked the group membership as if I were watching the stock market. We were at 101 members with only 33 of those people being active participants. This number decreased among those who consistently participated. 32.67% is a failing grade! I decided to poll the members collectively and individually. What I discovered was that many of the members were watching from the shadows but not active. For some strange reason, some who were not participants complained to other group administrators about too many posts in the group. What other group has a midday music session where an average of 35 songs are posted by one of the members? Then there were those who claimed the group was consuming too much memory on their phones as they were also members of several other groups. As my role was a non-paying one, I refused to counsel others on cellphone data management. To make matters worse, there was apparently an unwritten rule in the group that politics and religion should not be discussed…what else is there to talk about?!
It then dawned on me that being an administrator of a social group is probably like being the president of a country. There will be those who don’t contribute anything to the development of the system yet complain about everything. There are those who are there to push personal agendas and then there are those who appreciate your hard work. Those are the people that keep us going. The core element of the group who ensure birthdays are recorded and publicized, those who send you private messages to encourage you, those who organize social gatherings and those just want us all to smile daily. They are the ones we do it for.
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