Sunday, 6 January 2019

Hemantha Kalam - 49 "Think you have TIME for WhatsApp?"

‘The biggest mistake is you think you have the time’

I didn’t have much work the past one week and so I embarked on cleaning up data stored in my hard disk on my desk-top. I had compartmentalised my one TB hard disk and one such compartment is for entertainment. This has music and some select videos.

Ever since I had been cowed down to have an android phone (I somehow do not like to call it the smart phone as it is making almost all its users dumb) and apps like Facebook and WhatsApp have been loaded, it encroached into my time significantly as it would have been into millions or should it be billions of people’s lives and their time.

Since one year I have been periodically transferring from my mobile phone all the photos, GIFs and videos that have been shared onto my social media accounts by various individuals and groups onto my desktop. At any given point I had noted that I receive about 200 good morning posts in the morning. Though I don’t reply to all, quite a few of them need every day attention as I cannot afford to antagonise the senders who I consider truly my well-wishers. And then, it is felt and to be acknowledged that unless someone is interested in being in touch with you, they wouldn't bother wasting their time on you either!

So replying them suitably occupies about half hour every day. Removing / deleting the blatantly unimportant posts and these good morning posts take anything between half-hour to one hour every day. If I don’t remove them regularly, the phone gets blocked with data and important data may not find place. In fact I don’t even trim my beard this religiously and regularly. Transferring the balance stuff from my mobile onto my desktop for posterity (to be browsed as and when I find time because I have to prioritise my regular every day work) takes about half hour a week. So, on an average, every week I am forced to spend a minimum of about 8 hours and a maximum of 12 hours. Let me take it as an average of 10 hours a week for easy calculation or 520 hours a year.

I noted that after deleting unwanted stuff, the stuff transferred over the year, for posterity, is about 23,851 files totalling to about 250 GB capacity. Past one week I am spending an average of 30 hours a week and I just waded through 15 GB of stuff making an average of 0.5 GB per hour. If I keep this pace, it is expected that to complete browsing the balance 235 GB stuff I would need something like 470 hours more to catch up with pending posts.

Effectively, I would be spending 520+30+470=1,020 hours (or 42.5 days) in a year to just browse the stuff sent in by contacts over WhatsApp alone. Thankfully, the Facebook seems to be losing the charm and sheen for many, at least in India, and I am not much on Instagram or Telegram and hardly on to Twitter, bless me.

So far, on browsing the 15 GB stuff I found less than 1% to be of any real use to me. Most of the stuff is sermonising on how one should be or one should not be, religious discourses and worst, political debates by individuals and groups, who for most time are absolutely illogical and down-right stubborn.

But now coming back to the economics of it, I made some quick calculations of the time spent and the potential loss I am making on this innocuously time-pass exercise. Suppose I am making say about Rs.175 or US $ 2.50 per hour, effectively I am losing out Rs.1,78,500 or US $ 2,550 per annum. The pity is the government would not allow me to write off this loss as entertainment expense.

As of February, 2018 it was estimated that about 200 million Indians                 have been using the WhatsApp platform ( with an annual growth of about 24% approximately (

Assuming that the other regular users make an average of Rs.70 or US one dollar per hour [taking into consideration that the maximum users - 34% Middle Class and 84% in the age group of 18-35 years ]( it is being estimated that with an average use of six hours per day, the time wasted is a whopping 1,200 million hours per annum. Translated into a potential loss of money, it goes out that the per annum loss is Rs.84,000,000,000 (8 billion) or US $ 1,200,000,000 (1.2 Billion). So whose time is this and whose money is this, anyway?

Who are actually being benefited out of this? Maybe those posting on YouTube to some extent!?

But, surely the users are not being benefited, even if they believe so, as they are not only losing their time and potential money, but also their health and most importantly, their peace. Earlier, there was some news that was not reported and people lived in peace, as ignorance was bliss. But now these apps have shattered such small mercies, with every guy thinking that he is breaking news (thus one is bombarded with multiple posts of the same information from various contacts) by posting a piece of information which s/he thinks is so important. Friends are being turned out to be enemies on some unfounded and confounded piece of information. People and even families are being torn apart on the basis of religious beliefs and politics. And pray, who’s responsible for all this mayhem which if not corrected now could manifest itself into an uncontrollable demon?

I am especially dreading this prospect in 2019, as during this year both the central and state elections are slotted for. And it is anybody’s guess as to the amount of posts that are going to bombard one’s mobile. Added to this is the fake news menace.

After I came to be, despite paying income-tax and other taxes over the past four decades, I hardly ever came across any government which has helped me in any way directly and in a very little way indirectly. So for me, practically it does not matter which party gets elected as I have to bear my own cross for sure. I find it terribly unfair that not only am I going to get a government which is not going to help me in any way, but it is also taking out my time in advance too and adding up to my losses. The only consoling thing is that it is going to be socialistic (or should the right word be communistic? – I don’t know the difference anyway) and that all parties are going to take my time and space without sparing, so I can at least say that I was not taking sides and entertained all parties equally. J

On an earlier occasion, a few friends (mostly from other countries who woefully cannot understand our systems and that people expect responses to their posts) have advised me to block time-usurping contacts. We can block one or two, but if a majority of a whole civilisation is into it, it is going to be like trying to block the water released from a dam with a piece of soap!

OK ok, I hasten to add that I am not a puritan myself and sometimes, carried away in the vortex, I too share some posts but am mostly careful to post those which I consider important (hmm…yes, I am aware that one man’s food can be another’s poison). I, as a principle, do not post any of the ‘Good Morning’ posts and thus try my bit to make every other person’s morning that much more beneficial and better.

So, for salvation, presently I see two options. One is to go back to jungle times, silently - become smart by shedding the ‘smart’ phone and using the old QWERTY mobile (yes I have a couple of them saved and serviced for contingencies like these) - or find a ticket to go to moon!

What do you think is a better option? Please do let me know.

Till then, 

Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Samskrutam), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Odhiya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Deu (Laotian), Khawb Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian), Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan) and Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian)

Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy

Chennai, India