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Whatsapp: a Pandora’s Box



Gabriel Mario Rodrigues, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES – The Brazilian Association of Privately Owned Higher Education Institutions

“How admirable are the people we do not know well.” (Millôr Fernandes)

I have already told the story of the evangelical pastor who sent religious, cultural, and educational messages to low-income women during the week on WhatsApp, and on Sunday, based on them, gave professional improvement classes.

WhatsApp, like other social networks, is a great means of intellectual enrichment, but on the other hand, it can turn into a vehicle of moral invincibility. Because we all receive, daily, flooded with reports of bad taste and that, besides wasting our time on reading them, they add nothing. I think it’s worth talking about this media.

WhatsApp is a cross-platform instant messaging application and voice calls to smartphones (mobile phones). In addition to text messaging, users can send pictures, videos, GIFs and documents, as well as make free calls through an internet connection.

But how did it come about?

Incredible as it may seem, the creation of this service resulted from the loss of the most spectacular job opportunity in history. “Facebook refused me,” says its creator. “It was a great opportunity to connect with some great people. I’m looking forward to the next adventure of life, “tweeted August 3, 2009, Brian Acton to his followers.

Then, in a resilience test, he got together with a friend with whom he worked at Yahoo !, Jan Koum, and set up WhatsApp. On February 19, 2014, Facebook acquired Acton’s and Koum’s company for about 22 billion dollars.

This is the application story that seems to be ubiquitous in our daily lives. The tool that can turn into a hell for taking too much time away that could be used for more productive activities, or even for rest and reflection. This is because it streams self-help videos, as well as fake news (which stir up party, racial, gender, etc. hatred). Gifs and jokes of dubious humor encumber the memory of our smartphone and compel us a terrible waste of time, either to read them or to delete them.

WhatsApp, which looks more like a playful object than a virtual communication tool, should at first have been useful for cultural purposes, but it has gone through tortuous paths – good or bad taste. It is, above all, a great consumer of time, a thief of hours, minutes and seconds. The “low heads” (Whats users’ position) live, sit or walk, with their heads tilted as if looking at the ground, but are actually looking at their smartphones .

In the November 30 daily notebook of Folha de S.Paulo, Sérgio Rodrigues wrote an article entitled “Bestialógico, the democratic festival of nonsense that plagues the internet.” It deals exactly with the insanity of the new times, citing a roll of nonsense that runs on the internet, and of course, on communicators such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Surprising precious moments / hours in the life of Internet users, the “Whats” seems like a dishonor that respects nothing, on the contrary, it is more for a tower of Babel thinking than it is for approaching people, relatives, friends, colleagues and such, as proposing an “improvement in life”. After all, the platform and the platform of the closed ones opened up for themselves in the great adventure of speaking, no matter if wrong or right, but, speaking, speaking, speaking.

Although WhatsApp has reached 1 billion active users per day worldwide in July of this year (almost a year and a half after reaching a billion monthly users), I am afraid that a great spiral of silence is being introduced.

And the numbers released by WhatsApp are stratospheric (and scary):

  • 1.3 billion active users per month
  • 55 billion messages sent per day
  • 4.5 billion photos shared per day
  • 1 billion shared videos per day
  • 250 million people use the Status function per day

Who has not seen a lot of people checking their cell phone? Research indicates that in a normal conversation, people talk about themselves, on average, 30 percent of the time; but in social networks, this rate rises to 90%. That is, for the most part, people share and publish things about themselves, mainly because on the internet feedback is instantaneous. Someone comments, likes, compliments, etc.

But what I do not like is to receive from friends highly pornographic messages interspersed with prayers of high religious fervor.

Despite this negative scenario, WhatsApp can have a special mission because it facilitates communication between people with less economic resources. What’s more, it can be an extraordinary tool to support learning.

See the application as a didactic resource that Profa. Deborah Machry, from São Leopoldo / RS, uses to encourage reading of her students: “Teacher uses WhatsApp to encourage reading.”

Another example is the report of an innovative experience of students from the Distance Project Management course of PUC MINAS VIRTUAL, presented at the ABED Congress this year: “Whatsapp: is education in your hands?”

These examples are highly significant showing the immense opportunities of technology in our day to day. The education sector needs to realize that there is “a lot more than a screen to look at and keys to use.”

It is an invitation to reflection. Education may be closer than we imagine. Literally in our hands!