"Sorry all wrong group.” So read a recent Whatsapp message by one of my sisters, after she’d copied the rest of the “Daughters” into a private chat with my mum…
That’s the perennial problem with Whatsapp — making sure you’re in the right conversation (rather than snarking about somebody who will soon register their dismay with two ominous ticks) — and one the young royals are now grappling with. According to Mike Tindall, “a few of Zara’s side like her brother Pete and the cousins are on WhatsApp groups”. No doubt recent messages have included baby announcements (Wills and Kate, and Zara and Mike) and royal engagements (Meghan and Harry, Eugenie and Jack ). Such nachas.
Of course, the royals could put on the news to keep up with the folks, but it’s no surprise they have turned to Whatsapp for more intimate discussion. Like the rest of us. Launched in 2009, founded by Jewish Ukrainian-born Jan Koum, it’s hardly an exaggeration to say it has become the lifeblood of family life, especially for us Jews. From recipes to reminders about yarzheits, from Shabbat lunch invitations to smug photos from someone overseas, if it happened, we’re probably whatsapping someone.
As for the royals, so much of Jewish life – with our sometimes vast but close-knit families, often spread around the globe (or at least north west London) — is about logistics. Who’s where for Rosh Hashanah, who’s hosting second seder? I’ll bring a crumble, you pick up wine. Does anyone need anything from Kosher Kingdom, or want challah from Daniels? Who’s engaged, or when’s the shiva? Are the EasyJet Tel Aviv flights out yet? Here’s what the rabbi said in his sermon. Those conversations could happen by text, email, or — shocker — by telephone, but realistically it’s easier to send a group Whatsapp so every member of your extended network can weigh in. And, probably, will. At length. Possibly with a baby photo thrown in.
As Meghan will learn, there are family groups and then there are always even more family groups; the in-laws, say, or the cousins. We have a sisters-only group (don’t worry, parents you never come up) and subsets, too, while my mum once created a “sons-in-law” group (which sadly lies dormant).
There’s the nephews group involving both sides of the family, and one dedicated to my niece in Israel tracking her progress with daily video footage and commentary (some in Russian or Hebrew).
Then there are the groups for colleagues and friends, which multiply daily into ever greater permutations like a cockroach surviving a nuclear disaster. It can be overwhelming and make you reach for the mute button (“accident, I promise”), but it’s also the live equivalent of the JC’s social and personal page; the way to get the gossip, see who has had a baby and what they’ve called it, or circulate as-it-happens chupah photos to friends abroad. Many of us no longer want to broadcast on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to share.
The only person in my life who is not using Whatsapp? My grandfather — but maybe if the Queen and Prince Philip get involved, I’ll convince him.