Pulling the plug - I’m finally leaving WhatsApp 

Published 2017-08-12 on flowinho.io

category | personal facebook whatsapp privacy messenger

I like software. I’m a pretty social person. I use my phone a lot.

but

I really, really dislike WhatsApp.

It’s all about peer-pressure

Like Facebook, WhatsApp has become a platform that basically peer-pressures you into using it.

Dude, if you really leave WhatsApp, it will have consequences. How will less technically-educated people reach you?

And that alone is reason to hate it. It’s just crazy how deeply integrated a service can be in our daily lives.

People depend so much on it that they started to fear being without it. Like a child that’s bullied by older children.

Haaahaa you don’t have WhatsApp, you suck!

WhatsApp has been with us for almost a decade now, and I can easily say: almost everyone uses it. It has become the defacto standard for messaging on Android and iOS. That’s why people fear to stop using it. Because it seems like you’re going stop using communication itself.

But it’s not like that. Just like leaving Facebook five years ago wasn’t the end of social life for my wife and me, so will leaving WhatsApp not be the end of instant messaging.

It’s not a service that connects us with people. A services helps as connect more easily, but ultimately it’s ourselves that connect to other people.

I understand that the entrance barrier to using WhatsApp is ridiculously low. But here are some alternatives that have the same or even lower barriers:

  • an actual phone call
  • iMessage (for you Apple users out there)
  • eMail
  • whatever Social Network someone uses
  • other messengers like e.g. Wire
  • going there in person

Another great quote, made by a friend whom I told I’m going to leave WhatsApp:

I have people I can only connect with when using WhatsApp.

Wow. That’s a bold statement.

Because if you connect with them using WhatsApp you at least have their phone number.

So there’s already another possibility to connect with them — it’s just that we are already trained to don’t even think about them.

Stopping to use WhatsApp doesn’t mean I am quitting to communicate with other people.

It just means I won’t use WhatsApp any longer. People can still reach me over various, non-techy services.

If people are not close enough to me to know about other means of communicating with me, they probably don’t know my mobile phone number as well — which hinders them from using WhatsApp anyways.

In the end I want to choose my means of communication myself not because everyone uses it — so you should, too.

I don’t consider it to be good software

This is a very very personal opinion but from a software point of view WhatsApp has failed to impress me for a very long time.

  • Development of the iOS app has been very slow for years now. It took almost 10months to adapt to the iPhone 6+ screen size — which was crazy back then. I felt like using a magnifying glass.
  • Bugfixing for both security and user-experience related bugs is way too slow compared to my standards and other apps.
  • There is still no tablet version.

WhatsApp is Facebook

Don’t forget that. I know that more and more people are aware of the threat using Facebook poses to us. Yet, WhatsApp belongs to that very same company. I want to start this part with an interesting conversation I had about the mail product of a tech-giant:

Hey! Good news! They don’t scan your emails content anymore to present you relevant advertisement and create a profile from your interests.

A pause of approximately five seconds.

Wait, they scanned my mails?

And that’s what im talking about. Many people just aren’t aware of how the tech companies out there that offer free products make money: by selling your information and / or profiling you.

WhatsApp has been known for:

  • Submitting your phone number to Facebook
  • Tracking where you use the app
  • Tracking when you use the app and how often
  • Tracking with whom you communicate
  • Merging your WhatsApp profile in your internal Facebook profile

These are the non-paranoid tracking points. If you are someone that covers the webcam in his Laptop, you might want to rethink the way you set priorities.

Since the entire source-code to WhatsApp, and by that I mean the app, the servers and the protocol FB uses to connect users with each other, is closed-source no one can actively monitor or know what Facebook is doing behind the scenes.

There’s another big aspect regarding privacy: the app is designed to make you feel uncomfortable when not giving full access to contacts & photos.

There is absolutely no technical reason to implement an app like that. This usability design is to push users towards submitting their personal information.

But not just theirs.

By giving access to your contacts, you also share contact information of other people you have stored on your phone.

Did you ask them for permission?

Of course it ultimately comes down to trust, but if I’m eventually forced to use a product made by a company I absolutely do not trust, I’d at least like to know what’s going on under the hood.

Going open-source on your platform to build trust is a step many companies have already made.

Not WhatsApp.

Wether you take part in that horrible surveillance game or not is up to you — not some companies.

I won’t let others peer-pressure me into situations I’m uncomfortable with, even if my worries might be too paranoid.

Communication is one of the most sensible aspects of my daily life. I want to trust the service I’m using for it.

How to reach me in the post-WhatsApp era

If you don’t have access to my mobile phone number:

  • Send me a mail to contact at flowinho dot com – if you are a ProtonMail user you’ll be happy to hear that flowinho.com is registered inside the network.
  • You can follow my @flowinho on Twitter and send me a direct message.
  • I’m using Wire and my username is @flowinho.
  • If you’re a bit more into tech, you’re welcome to contact me using keybase.

If you have my phone number…

  • Call me. Seriously, just do it.
  • iMessage, Facetime Audio, FaceTime Video… choose any apple service that’s to your liking.
  • SMS
  • Using my phone number you might find me on other services.
  • Use one of the methods described above.

Final verdict

I am really really happy to finally set myself free from the peer-pressure to which I’ve had stupidly fallen victim.

This is a personal decision. I do not judge people who use WhatsApp.

However, if this article inspired you to think about some aspects of how you use technology, it was already worth the time writing it.

I wish you a wonderful day.