There’s no denying the “instant gratification” we receive from messages on WhatsApp, the most widely used “instant” messaging application today. The ability to delay gratification has been linked with a wide range of positive outcomes, with research linking the trait with improved academic success, physical health, psychological health and social competence.
However, Whatsapp when used as a platform to build support networks, has also been revolutionary in preventing psychological issues that arise from loneliness and isolation, in themselves epidemics of the 20-21st centuries. Messaging platforms in the 21st century have opened up new dimensions of communication, and although person to person contact is still more important than ever, many social groups whom otherwise would have found themselves isolated, are forming new bonds via Whatsapp and taking them into real life.
One such group is one we all know well, Mothers. But I’m talking about first time moms with minimal social support networks. Those who have moved to a different country for example. To a mother in a difficult situation with a newborn, instant messaging with a group of similar mom’s, when her own contacts have eluded her or live overseas, can be a true lifesaver. Support networks, as anyone whose studied psychology knows, are as vital a factor as socio-economic status and genetics in increasing resilience to mental health issues such as post-natal depression.
The key it seems is in moderation. It’s a bit like taking a sip of wine and getting drunk. Wine reduces blood pressure and improves circulation, but can also damage your liver and well…get you drunk. If the Whatsapp motto provides us with is “someone will always be there for you,” we need to also know how to take the security that offers us as individuals and set sail sometimes with no anchor; set our own limits to maximize the life-enhancing qualities IM (instant messaging) applications like Whatsapp offer us today.
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