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March 17, 2021 Wednesday 10:17:05 AM IST

Miscommunication in the Age of Whatsapp

Image by Bruno/Germany for

In a hilarious scene in the 1990’s Mollywood movie Kilikkum (Tinkling) starring superstar Mohanlal, Jagathy Sreekumar and Revathy, there is a scene where Nischal, a photographer in Ooty (enacted by Jagathy) comes out of a hospital after treatment and unfortunately comes face to face with two Hindi speaking thugs. He tells the thugs who ask him about where his friend Jojy played by Mohanlal- "chakada' chakada" to mean that he had parted ways with Jojy after a fight. And in broken Hindi, he also said 'dushman, dushman.' This was interpreted by the Hindi speaking thugs to mean that Nischal was their enemy. And instead of saying,Mujhe nahin maloom (don't know where Jojy is), Nischal says, 'Mujhe Maloom'. And the thug beats him up and he again ends in hospital!

I get reminded of this scene when people fight over misunderstandings or miscommunication that happens over whatsapp and messenger chats. I lost several friends in the process. Typing a reply is a time consuming process. Not to speak of trouble caused by automated fill-ins.  We may have only sent a part of what we intended to communicate in our reply and before we could send the rest of the communication to complete what we wanted to convey, our friend might have already come to his or her conclusion—‘If I had known you to be like this I wouldn’t have become friends with you,….  and you have said what you meant .” And what follows is a ‘chakada, chakada’ and friends become foes in no time. It all happens because of miscommunication. 

In Whatsapp groups, the situation is much worse. Somebody makes a critical remark and that creates a tornado of replies and counter replies and finally one or few bursting out and exiting from the group. This will be followed by efforts of the admin to bring him or her back. Sometimes, such people quickly leave again. 

A few years ago I remember losing a TV journalist friend who used to chat and share her personal problems and also career challenges as she couldn’t understand a remark about her program was made ‘jokingly.’ Very soon she unfriended me!
There is no point talking about the good old days when interpersonal relations were much better with only a land phone and face to face contact or through letters.  But we have to live with new technologies, challenges and the fatigue that comes from using multiple sources of communication. To take away the blame of only exaggerating problems, what are the solutions in this techno-communication age?

1) Give voice clip: Typing and correcting messages take a long time, sometimes it may be better to record a voice clip which is easier and less time consuming.  Your friend will get your message in a proper perspective.

2) No instant replies: In the case of controversial issues or allegations don’t reply instantly. Go in offline mode, type the reply, reread it, correct it and send. 

3) No reply: Sometimes it makes sense to not reply at all if you are likely to meet him or her face to face, the issue can be clarified better. 
(Have you had interesting experiences on Whatsapp and Messenger chatting, write to

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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