BY ALEX TAREMWA
Motie Musiime, a former classmate, shared a snapshot from Facebook to the mass communication class of 2010/13 whatsapp group. It was the birthday of Joan Ankunda, a classmate who had passed on earlier in the month.
The group, which is a little over a month old, suddenly exploded with RIP messages, most of which were from people who did not know the deceased too well. I was going to have none of it!
I quickly swung the group into another discussion direction. I suggested that rather than write winding words to the late Joan, which she wasn’t going to read, let us each contribute Shs10,000 to the wellbeing of her three-year-old son, Jayden.
This would be the time most WhatsApp group members climb into the kamooli, as non-responsive members are widely known. Having known Joan well from our time as interns at Daily Monitor (Mbarara bureau), the group voted me as treasurer of the collection.
Almost immediately the mobile money messages started coming in and by close of first day of fundraising, the group of 99 people had contributed Shs219,000 and the drive closed at Shs414,000, an amount not overwhelming but enough to buy baby Jayden milk and bread for at least three months.
This brings me to other WhatsApp groups. I have personally been in the habit of leaving two kinds of groups: those to which I have no association like say Ntare Old Boys yet I am from St. Josephs; and those that assume the role of comedians with members only contributing by sharing not so funny jokes and memes.
I admit that humour and laughter are necessary to human health but we must face the fact that they can be overdone sometimes.
I was in Kazo last month for my aunt’s burial and the Internet connection was poor so I was mostly offline.
When I finally logged on, I found 1,400 messages from a certain group, and a better part of these were jokes and memes. As if this were not annoying enough, they chewed about 70 percent of my data bundle.
WhatsApp isn’t Comedy Central, people! These groups can do a whole lot more than gossip and chew people’s data.
They can save a life in an insecure neighbourhood, generate capital for their members through saving schemes, they can save your marriage or relationship with a little advice or better yet, get you a husband or wife.
If you are an agriculturalist, share farming tips, if you are a bishop or reverend, you can share a scripture or two.
This privilege should be limited to certified people not wannabe pastors and overnight apostles who are lately everywhere asking people to type ‘amen’!
If you are an academic, share that e-book, journal or documentary you watched. And if you are a journalist, keep the group informed. See what I did there?
So if you are not a comedian, steer clear of the jokes business and see how harmonious and beneficial WhatsApp groups will be.
The writer is a journalist and founder of The Workshop Uganda