LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Freaky Contact Lists

So one of the things I do when I’m bored is to open the “new conversation” (plus sign) thing on my WhatsApp and check which of my contacts are there in my WhatsApp social network. I do this periodically, without any particular reason. On the upside, I see people who I haven’t spoken to for a long time, and this results in a conversation. On the downside, this is freaky.

The problem with WhatsApp is that it automatically assumes that everyone in your phone book is someone you want to keep in touch with. And more likely than not, people make their WhatsApp profile pictures visible to all. And sometimes these profile pictures have to do with something personal, rather than a simple mugshot. Some people have pictures of their homes, of their kids, and of better halves. And suddenly, everyone who has their number on their phone book gets a peek into the part of their lives they’ve chosen to make public by way of their WhatsApp profile pictures!

Some examples of people on my phone book into whose lives I’ve thus got a peek includes a guy who repairs suitcases, a guy who once repaired my refrigerator, a real estate broker whose services I’d engaged five years back to rent out my house, and so forth. And then there are business clients – purely professional contacts, but who have chosen to expose through their WhatsApp profile pictures aspects of their personal lives! Thus, through the picture function (of course you can choose to not make your picture public), you end up knowing much more about random contacts in your phone book than you need to!

The next level of freakiness comes from people who have moved on from the numbers that they shared with you. So you see in the photo associated with an old friend someone who looks very very different and who is definitely not that friend! And thanks to their having put pictures on WhatsApp, you now get an insight into their personal lives (again I tell you that people put intensely personal pictures as their WhatsApp profile pictures). I haven’t tried messaging one of these assuming they are still the person who is my friend and used to once own their number!

Then there are friends who live abroad who gave you the numbers of close relatives when they were in town so that you could get in touch with them. These numbers have now duly passed back on to the said relatives (usually a parent or a sibling) of your overseas friends, and thanks to the pictures that they put on WhatsApp, you now get an insight into their lives! Then you start wondering why you still have these contacts in your phonebook, but then it’s so unintuitive to delete contacts that you just let it be.

The thing with Android is that it collects your contacts from all social media and puts them into your phone book – especially Facebook and LinkedIn. On Facebook people are unlikely to give out their phone numbers, and everyone on my facebook friends list is my friend anyway (today I began a purge to weed out unknown people from my friends list) it’s not freaky to see them on your whatsapp. But then thanks to the Android integration, you have your LinkedIn contacts popping up in your address books, and consequently whatsapp!

Again, LInkedIn has a lot of people who are known to you, though you have no reason to get to know their personal lives via the photos they put on WhatsApp. But on LinkedIn you also tend to accept connection requests from people you don’t really know but think might benefit from associating with them at a later date. And thanks to integration with WhatsApp, and profile pics, you now get an insight into the lives of your headhunters! It’s all bizarre.

So yes, you can conclude that I might be jobless enough to go through my full WhatsApp contacts list periodically. Guilty as charged. The problem, though, is that people don’t realise that their WhatsApp profile pictures are seen by just about anyone who has their number, irrespective of the kind of relationship. And thus people continue to put deeply personal pictures as their WhatsApp profile pictures, and thus bit by bit give themselves away to the world!

The solution is simple – put a mugshot or a “neutral” photo as your WhatsApp profile picture. You don’t know how many people can see that!

Quotable quotes

Over the last week or two, I’ve been doing a fair bit of “social networking”. I’m not talking about online social networks – if anything I’ve significantly cut down on that (I’ve taken a break from twitter). I’m talking about old-fashioned social networking, where I meet old friends and acquaintances over coffee or drinks or a meal.

Since the last two weeks were “holidays” in most of the world, a number of people happened to be visiting Bangalore and I ended up meeting a lot of people. I’ve met so many people that now it’ tough to remember what I spoke about with whom. And it’s only a good thing, for nothing gives me a bigger high than a nice long intellectual conversation, and my discretion means that I’ve only met people who have afforded me such conversation.

During a couple of such conversations I think I said stuff that is rather quotable. Since the people I said these things to don’t have active blogs, I thought I should be rather pompous and put up quotes here from my own conversations.

Last week I was talking to a friend from IIT. I was telling him about getting some petitions such as “IITians against article 377”. What is the point of putting all IITians as a group, I asked. Apart from the fact that we did rather well in a supposedly tough examination, I don’t see any particular feature that sets IITians apart from the rest of the population and I find this grouping of IITians rather amusing. The conversation went thus:

“I don’t see what is special about IITians. During my time at IITM I found 80% of IITians rather unspectacular and uninteresting”
“I agree with that number but what sets IIT apart from other colleges is that it is 80%. Elsewhere it will be 95%”
“Yeah, but that isn’t a big improvement”
“Of course it is a big improvement. 80% is so much better than 95%”
“Ah, now I get it. If we have a class of 100, and if 95% are uninteresting that means there are only 5 interesting people. With 80% uninteresting, it means that there are 20 interesting people! 4 times the number of people to hang out with!”

Ok I admit there’s nothing particularly quotable in that but I wanted to talk about the concept of inverse proportion here, and hence all the build up. And perhaps this thing about inverse proportions would have made more sense on my official blog, but since there is a little bit of bitchiness involved I’m putting it here.

Coming to the other quotable quote – earlier this week, a friend was asking my why I don’t push myself harder professionally. This guy has had an exceptional professional career so far, and was pointing out the benefits of his professional focus over the last few years. This is what I told him:

“I used to be like this, but after a few years and a few incidents, I realize I don’t have that appetite for delayed gratification anymore. I’m not willing to slog it out for a while to wait for the fruits of labour later on.

“So it is 10 pm in IIMB, and you need to submit your Supply Chain Management case analysis by 8 am the next morning. this guy who is in your discussion group comes by, ostensibly to work on the case. And he says ‘one game of AoE before we start the case?’

“And so we sit down to play AoE. It is 5 am by the time we have finished solving the case. We started, in fact, only at 1 am – we were playing AoE till then.

“Now, even if we had started solving the case at 10, there is no guarantee that we would have finished significantly earlier than 5. In that case, we would still have not slept, and not played AoE either. The way we did it, we didn’t sleep but we we at least managed to play a solid round of AoE.”

Google Plus – Initial thoughts

Hareesh sent me an invite for Google Plus early on Wednesday morning. Thinking it’s another stupid thing like Wave, I ignored it. But feedback from twitter revealed that the product did show some promise, so later that evening I joined it. I’ve got some 150 friends already (god knows how long it took me to get to so many with either Orkut or Facebook), though I haven’t started using it yet. Some initial thoughts:

  • I like the concept of circles, and that it’s so easy to segregate your friends. This has become a huge problem in social networking, especially after all uncles and aunties got on to facebook. So far I’ve made an attempt to classify all my contacts into disjoint circles of “friends” “family” and “acquaintances”. I also like it that circles need not be disjoint, so I can make an exception to my rule and put the wife in both “friends” and “family”
  • I like that it’s a directed graph. That you can follow the public posts of someone without them having to follow you back. I don’t know why but I simply like this. I hate putting friendship requests and waiting endlessly for responses and stuff. So this directed stuff makes a lot of sense for me.
  • I need to find out how to import my blog there. Then I can close my blog feed on facebook which is infested with uncles and aunties. On Plus, they’ll be safely tucked away in the “family” circle which won’t be able to see much.
  • I don’t like being the “cut-vertex”. I don’t like being the one guy who links two subgroups of a larger group. On a similar note, I don’t like to go out simultaneously with disjoint sets of friends (i.e. two groups that didn’t know each other previously). I feel too tense trying to make sure everyone’s comfortable and clued in on what’s happening. Similar with conversations on facebook. So yeah, I’ll probably segregate my circles further and have more cliquey groups.
  • Again, directed graph means I can peacefully put ignore to people, without appearing rude. On FB, if some uncle comments and I don’t respond, he might take offense, and I’ll be cognizant of the fact that he takes offence. And I force myself to reply. On G+, if i”m not following him, I can peacefully put well left. Like I sometimes do to @Replies to me on twitter from people who I don’t follow

So seems promising. Too early to say if it’ll make me give up both twitter and facebook. I’m sure I won’t give up twitter for sure. Let’s wait and see.