Chatting

When chat apps can be overwhelming

For Vy, a content creator for an advertising agency in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City, receiving work-related messages until midnight has been a part of life for four years.

Sometimes these messages make her feel overwhelmed. But the 28-year-old still has to read the entire conversation for fear of missing important information.

Vy receives messages from chat apps or social media throughout the day. “Sometimes I spend an entire morning reading and responding to these messages,” she says.

When she’s on the plane or in a meeting and she turns off and then turns on her mobile phone, it’s a veritable torrent of messages that even causes the phone to lag.

His job requires him to keep in touch with many people. For each project, she must participate in about five discussion groups with colleagues, supervisors and clients via Facebook Messenger, Zalo, Telegram, Viber and Skype.

She currently manages three projects.

Reading and responding to newsgroup messages takes up a lot of time, which affects both their professional and personal lives. Photo by VnExpress/MP

According to a report from a Vietnamese social media platform, in the first quarter of 2021, it had 64 million users and 1.7 billion messages sent every day.

People like Hong Vy in the 18-35 age bracket help make Vietnam a powerhouse in terms of social media users and messaging apps.

According to statistics from NapoleonCat (a tool for measuring social media indicators), Vietnam has nearly 76 million Facebook users, including 54 million who regularly use its Messenger chat application. This number is the fifth highest in the world after only India, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.

According to Viber, it has over 30 million Vietnamese users.

Telegram doesn’t have exact numbers, but is considered a “rising star” among chat apps in Vietnam.

Thanh Thuy, 35, is a mother of two in Hanoi. In addition to being in dozens of work-related chat groups, she is also a member of seven personal groups, including with her children’s teachers and other parents, residents of her building, the management committee of the building and the households on its floor.

Thuy has FOMO (fear of missing something), so he doesn’t dare turn off notifications or leave a group chat. She often reads all her messages during breaks.

She worries: “Maybe there is information about me in these conversations. I don’t want to be outside. However, I don’t want to spend all day reading messages either.”

There are a lot of people like Vy and Thuy, overwhelmed by chat groups.

Prof Assoc Dr Nguyen Duc Loc, director of the Institute of Social Life, says business and personal chat groups are common, especially with technology and social media developing so rapidly.

However, he warns of some downsides to this phenomenon, such as the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life and the fear of being isolated in the workplace.

Spending too much time chatting online also often affects family happiness.

Vy admits that she often has to work overtime because she spends too much time responding to messages, including non-work related ones.

Her personal life is deeply affected as she explains: “Whenever I am online, my boss thinks I am available to work, no matter what time it is.

The stereotypes that form around online messages stress her out. For example, if she receives a message but does not read it and respond quickly, she fears that she will be viewed as unprofessional or disrespectful to her boss.

“That’s why I always feel overwhelmed with the work and… the message.”

Justin Santamaria, the former Apple engineer who created the iMessage messaging application, discusses this phenomenon in Wired magazine.

He says chat tools make people more rude.

“Before, people were careful to start with a phrase like ‘No urgency, answer when you can,’ or during a phone call, callers often ask, ‘Are you free? “But now we just send messages without thinking about the recipients.”

Constantly chatting also means that Thuy is often late to pick up her kids from school, her house is messy, and she sometimes burns food.

This upsets her husband, who even suspects his wife of having been unfaithful.

“My husband and I often argue because of this. We didn’t want to talk to each other and were planning on getting a divorce,”

At the other end of that spectrum is Trang Ha, 27, from Hanoi, who wants her colleagues to add her to every secret chat group, fearing she will become an outsider and isolated.

“I know that many co-workers in my department have secret chat groups to share confidential information. Sometimes I see co-workers suddenly look at each other and laugh. I’m always the last to know what’s going on.”

Her fear of isolation and slander is so great that she does everything possible to please her colleagues.

“I will help them with anything they ask. I think when they trust me, I will be added to their chat groups and I will no longer be a stranger.”

The flip side of being in many newsgroups is the risk of accidentally leaking confidential information.

Gia Bao, 30, once sent his website design to a bad newsgroup, and he soon had his idea stolen by former colleagues.

They quickly submitted the drawing to their boss, while Bao was unable to prove that it was his. This forced him to do an alternate design in a rush.

He says, “If I had emailed my design with a higher level of security, I wouldn’t have made such a mistake. As convenient as focus groups are, they have drawbacks.

Nguyen Hung Vi, a former senior lecturer at Vietnam National University’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities, says the Covid-19 pandemic has facilitated focus groups, which have become useful for working remotely.

“But when it comes to work, the group should be disbanded. Members of newsgroups should be encouraged to leave their groups or put rules in place for sharing information.”

So instead of blaming technology, people need to find their own way to deal with it and not let it affect their job performance or quality of life.

Gia Han, 28, is a product manager in a company. She’s in over 20 chat groups, but never feels overwhelmed by the messages. It categorizes groups as very important, important, and unimportant, and responds to messages based on priority levels.

She turns notifications on for the most important groups and turns them off in the non-work chat groups she has with friends and co-workers.

“It helps me not to be terrorized by online messages, to avoid chatter during working hours and to improve my work efficiency. I don’t have to work overtime.”

According to Loc, some companies, realizing that newsgroups not only distract their employees during working hours, but also increase the risk of data leaks, offer solutions such as installing intranet systems and even prohibit the use apps like Facebook and Zalo.

Vy gradually forms a habit of turning off newsgroup notifications and not responding to messages from friends and relatives during office hours, and refusing to take on office duties after hours.

“I have to take these measures to protect myself.”