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Remember the days of the Nokia brick? If you ever managed to prize yourself away from Snake II, getting in touch with your mates meant texts. Good, old fashioned, peppered-with-abbreviations texts (exchanged as sparsely as possible thanks to pay-as-you-go contracts).

In 2020, the text is a forgotten relic of times gone by. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial not on WhatsApp, where the chat is limitless, leaving us in eternal conversational limbo: saying a lot, but not really saying anything. Scroll back through your chats and you’ll see proper conversations have been replaced by a stream of one-word messages, memes, links, photos and voice notes.

How to behave when you’re in near constant contact is a social minefield. Thankfully, it’s easy to keep your digital dignity (and sanity) intact by following a few simple rules.


Don’t be a cliffhanger, a spammer or a mixed messenger

Otherwise known as the holy trinity of WhatsAppers we’d all cheerfully kill. A cliffhanger makes plans, never follows them up then gets in touch again after weeks of dormant chat. The spammer will send streams of one-word messages, mistakenly believing it will elicit a quicker response. In reality, you’re seriously considering blocking them. The mixed messenger is a combination of the two, who can go months without contact, then drown you in a deluge of 27 TikTok links in a single morning. These people do not deserve to have phones.

Learn (and take advantage of) the notification system

Do you have read receipts turned on or off? How about your ‘last online’ status? These are your tools to fake WhatsApp unavailability. Just don’t go too far and turn off all notifications; you are not Obama and you are fooling no one. Switching off read receipts will buy you time in the reply-stakes, but if you switch off your own you won’t be able to see anyone else’s. If you’re keeping read receipts turned on simply to check up on someone else, save yourself years of trouble by accepting this hard truth: if they’ve been online, they’ve read your message.

Maintain common sense and compassion on group chats

If you have too much free time and would like to develop feelings of deep-seated loathing towards most of your friends, create a group WhatsApp chat. To make sure you are not part of the problem. Keep your messages precise and group-specific. No one needs to see your homemade carbonara on a ‘HEN HUNS 2021!!!’ If you are thinking of leaving a chat, consider muting the conversation first (it’s less awkward). If you really must get out, send a friendly goodbye first – because not to is the equivalent of slamming your drink down and storming out of the pub when the conversation’s not all about you.

Remember WhatsApp etiquette when dating

There is nothing so challenging for singles as navigating WhatsApp messages exchanged before, after and between dates. You have two choices: chat freely, abandoning all notions of playing hard to get (great, until you are bored sick of each other by date three); or replicate old-school ‘text chat’, with fully formed messages exchanged 4-6 hours apart, as if you were not on your phone 24/7 (romantic, but filled with artifice). Either way, you risk facing the worst possible situation; you have messaged them, and there has been no response. For three. Whole. Days. A mature adult will cut their losses and move on; everyone else will incessantly scroll back through the messages, check read receipts hourly and try to psychically communicate when they see the word ‘online’.

… and breaking up

Ending a relationship on WhatsApp requires sensitivity. Keep it to one message, sent in the evening (no one has time to recover over a midweek lunchbreak) with no direct questions asked. This gives your broken-hearted other half the option not to respond, which is a gracious gesture. Whatever you do, don’t follow up to check they’ve got it.

Extra tips, tricks and hacks…


Never delete old chats, just swipe left and archive them. You never know when you’ll need proof of who ghosted whom.


Let friends know about birthday parties, holidays and events without creating another dreaded group chat, and send a ‘broadcast’ message instead. Also useful for disseminating gossip at top speed.


Have your read receipts turned on, but received a message that you need to handle…carefully? Flick on AirPlane mode and read it incognito.

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