WhatsApp behaving badly: We get schooled by Cape officials

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WhatsApp behaving badly: We get schooled by Cape officials

City of Cape Town dept has to lecture journalists on how to speak nicely to each other on WhatsApp

Cape Town bureau chief

It started innocuously, as thumb wars do.
“Good day everyone. I trust you all have a beautiful day in this beautiful Cape Town weather,” said the message on a media WhatsApp group run by the City of Cape Town safety, security and social services department.
“Administrator please add [name deleted] my colleague, he changed numbers. Thanking you in advance.”
It continued, as thumb wars do, with an unsolicited and unnecessary remark from a smart-alec. “How many times has he changed his cellphone number? How do people get hold of him? Smoke signals, blown in the general direction of [his office]?”
And it got out of control when the smart-ass remark reached its thin-skinned target. “If you have a problem with me deal with me like a grown-up man,” said Mr Smoke Signal.“I have been alerted to what you said earlier. You should have known better that this is not the platform. If you were joking, as you would justify your ‘childish’ comments, you should not have.”It’s one of the incidents of inappropriate exchanges on the group that have persuaded its administrator, city council spokesperson Janine Willemans, to vet its members and set new ground rules.
“The group is now in its fourth year and, while it is working well, I thought it appropriate to introduce a few rules of engagement,” Willemans said on Wednesday.
“Please ensure that you are familiar with the content of the post and that you abide by it, for the sake of the 200+ other individuals you share this space with.”The Cape Town protocols echo advice for WhatsApp group chats on the wellness website Well+Good from US industrial-organisational psychologist Amy Cooper Hakim.
She advises:
• Be cautious. “If a disagreement starts, clearly state that you are happy to discuss the issue, but that a group chat is not the place. Then move the dialogue outside of the group chat setting.”
• Keep the chat relevant to everyone.
• Be mindful of other people’s schedules. “Pick up the phone or text someone privately if you need to hear from them quickly and don’t notice their response in the group chat.”
School WhatsApp groups are a minefield well known to thousands of parents, and in 2016 St Peter’s Schools in Sunninghill, Johannesburg, issued a list of do’s and don’ts which included:
• This class chat group may not be used to post private messages.
• It is not necessary to respond to every message posted by the Class Moms unless required; ie: RSVP requests, volunteer requests, etc.
• Only under emergency or urgent circumstances may a parent post to the class WhatsApp group.
• The WhatsApp group should be used to make our lives easier and not to become a “nuisance”. Please respect the time you post; very early in the morning or late at night, weekends and holidays is discouraged.
• The WhatsApp group should never be used to voice grievances or drive personal agendas.
Webafrica has a great list of rules for WhatsApp groups here.

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