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A day on WhatsApp

“Get on WhatsApp!” they told me. “It’s FREE!” they said. So I caved. Not one to miss out on a freebie I headed down to the nearest Vodacom shop to connect my BlackBerry to the internet for R59 a month to get WhatsApp for “free”.

BIS the shop girl called it. You’re damn right it’s BS, I wanted to say. How is it free when I’m paying for internet anyways? Why can’t we all just send emails? That’s also free.

But I held my tongue. The shop girl looked like someone who likes WhatsApp and people who like WhatsApp love WhatsApp. In her best “what’s up with this guy” tone she told me to take out the battery, replace it and wait an hour for WhatsApp to register.

An hour later the WhatsApp logo appeared on my resuscitated and fully connected BlackBerry. I clicked on it. It took me to my contacts now featuring full colour avatars.


Jenny (Hairdresser) was there pictured with her two kids. Adrienne (Yoga) was there paragliding with her boyfriend. Dr Painter (Head of Psychology) had a shih tzu on his lap. In a matter of seconds I glimpsed the personal lives of people I went out of my way not to know.

Tentatively I scrolled down to someone I actually knew and typed my first WhatsApp. “Hi, I’m on,” it read. Simple. Short. I hit send and saw the regmerkie get another stripe taking it to mean the recipient, Max, got the message. “Max is typing … ” appeared at the top of the screen. “Yay! Welcome!” came the reply. Max likes WhatsApp.

I started typing my reply fully aware that “Hansie is typing … “ is showing on the other end. I hit a snag and had to re-type a word. My heart rate shot up. She’s probably wondering what’s taking so long. I mean, how long does it take to reply to “Welcome”? She doesn’t need a life story get it done, man!

After 10 seconds manhandling the BlackBerry keyboard I made a snap decision to go with thanx instead of thanks (seemed appropriate) and hit send. Max started typing again. In a flash the reply came accompanied by the line “Last seen today at 12.45″. That sounded ominous. I wasn’t sure if I should continue the conversation or call the police. I sent my second WhatsApp (“Are you OK?”). I got a reply. I exhaled.

A little shaken up by the experience I put the Blackberry away and got on with my life. Twenty minutes later the device summoned me. Another WhatsApp came in. I clicked through and found myself inside a WhatsApp group.

I felt like Tom Hanks dropped on a beach in Normandy where conversation had escalated well beyond the norm. Speech bubbles were flying all over the place. Sentences missing vital limbs were sent back and forth passing off as communication. At one point a meme drifted across the screen. It was chaos.

A group member called Lennie said she was leaving. I followed her and kept going all the way to my BlackBerry’s control panel where I disabled WhatsApp taking me back to Cyber-Siberia — a peaceful stretch of land free from speech bubbles where no one can reach me. In a day my WhatsApping days were over.

(I would just like to point out that I’m still available on SMS. SMS is a vintage messaging service, a lot like WhatsApp, just more mature. We like to spell right on SMS and take breaths between messages.)


  • Hansie Smit is a self-employed writer. He spends a lot of time in coffee shops tapping into free wi-fi making sure he buys a bran muffin every time to ease the inevitable guilt he feels getting something for free. Hansie received a Diploma in Copywriting from the prestigious AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town. He often picks up spelling mistakes in brand communication taking time out of his day to write to said brand to point it out. He does this free of charge. He's won a Silver Pendoring and almost won a Loerie. For more of his stunning insight and weighted opinion, visit his website at or follow him on Twitter @freehance


  1. Alex Smith Alex Smith 14 January 2015

    You’re blaming whatsapp because you refuse to not check messages or spell correctly?
    What is whatsapp? Essentially, it is sms on crack. It’s faster. You can send pictures and voice notes more cheaply than an mms. Soon we may even be able to make calls on it. If you’re using wi-fi, all activity on whatsapp becomes free.

  2. Dani Dani 14 January 2015

    …”to connect my BlackBerry to the internet for R59 a month to get WhatsApp for “free”.

    So, what to do now with the R59 / month???

    SMS’s costaplenty, WhatApp doesn’t cost me a cent. I spell normally either on sms or WA – don’t believe in being lazy. If others want to use a foreign (abbreviated) language, that’s their problem.

    “A group member called Lennie said she was leaving. I followed her and kept going all the way to my BlackBerry’s control panel…” Bwahahahaha :)

  3. Tim Tim 14 January 2015

    You never used BBM on your blackberry? It’s time you took the battery and SIM out and put your SIM into a modern smartphone before trying to review apps

  4. Fogworth Motswafere Fogworth Motswafere 15 January 2015

    Going by your profile picture, you look too young to be a Luddite, Hans. It’s just about efficiency of communication.

  5. KMS KMS 15 January 2015

    Gosh Hansie. Its cheap and easy and quick. Sms are so last decade

  6. Hansie Smit Hansie Smit 15 January 2015

    Fogworth I had to look up Luddite and you’re right, textiles were never my thing. My cousin got into textiles but she’s looking after lions in Kenya now so I don’t know how wise that was. Regarding WhatsApp, I’m not saying it’s the anti-christ of social media – I’m just saying it doesn’t work for me. I like my communication off crack and a little subdued. I also don’t speed date, but hey, that’s just me.

  7. Carmen Carmen 15 January 2015

    Love, love, love this!

  8. RSA.MommaCyndi RSA.MommaCyndi 15 January 2015

    How (and why) did you get onto a group chat?
    I must admit, I like WhatsApp. I can send quick messages to everyone, all over the world. With that R59 a month, I manage to get my e-mails whilst Telkom tries to muddle their way through figuring out why my internet doesn’t work. I also know when someone has seen the message. That comes in VERY handy when you have a husband and kids

  9. Allen Baranov Allen Baranov 16 January 2015

    Hmmm… group conversations can get a bit much on Whatsapp but it is much better for one-on-one conversations. Emojis (emoticons, little pictures that convery emotions) are also nice to use.

    I love Whatsapp but stay away from group conversations.

  10. Alex Smith Alex Smith 18 January 2015

    You’re still blaming Whatsapp for a lot of your own mistakes (spelling mistakes and an inability to not look at messages) and that is wrong. You’re also free to limit the people who message you on whatsapp by blocking them so you get LESS people messaging you. You can’t block people from sending you an sms.

  11. Bernpm Bernpm 28 January 2015

    I hear/read all the benefits of this “whatsap” feature.
    Question: how many serious conversations can a person handle simultaneously using this type of equipment?
    And -if they have as many conversations as people make me believe- what do they do the rest of the day??
    I have notice people in a restaurant “twitting” or “texting” seemingly ignoring the company of others around the table. Seems like an addiction more than anything else.

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