Awkward scenes permeated a group of friends last night when they met for a few beers but had nothing to say after the first five minutes. The group of friends, who are members of an active and colourful WhatsApp group, sat around in uncomfortable silence for most of the night until one inventive member posted the image of a tumbleweed onto their WhatsApp thread and laughter broke the quiet night air. From that moment the evening was somewhat rescued, although the earlier silence seemed to trouble many of the members. 

Social commentators claim this kind of situation is becoming increasingly common, coining the term ‘WhatsAppatitis’ to describe the moment when seemingly well-connected friends meet in person and struggle to make conversation. Social analyst Johnny Armstrong says the issue is caused by two major factors, “first of all the members of the groups find it difficult to find new conversation topics when most of them have already been covered that day, or often earlier in the week. Secondly, and most common in groups of male friends, it is deemed less palatable to pass disparaging remarks about each other’s mothers when you’re actually looking at each other face-to-face”. 

Armstrong suggested a couple of interventions to avoid a nasty case of WhatsAppatitis amongst your own friends, including the use of the slightly cumbersome acronym ‘LTATL’ when a topic pops up on the WhatsApp thread that might be worth exploring further in person. The acronym stands for ‘Let’s talk about this later’. Whilst we here at The Watsonia Bugle are a little sceptical of this strategy, we’ll try anything to avoid a dose of WhatsAppatitis.