November 18, 2022

Gendered Impact of Technology: Whatsapp and Social Plans

I've spent some time considering the differences between my WhatsApp departure and my husband's WhatsApp departure and I am starting to wonder whether the disparate reactions are indicative of a larger gendered impact of smartphone technology on women.

Social planning is an area where women tend to take a larger role, and social apps have generally increased the time investment involved for social planning.  

In the olden days, such as 1980, we planned a party by mailing invites to our friends.

In the "middle days", such as 1995, we called people, or emailed a suggested date or two.

Now, much of our social activity is planned by mutual consent on a WhatsApp group.  A steady stream of communication, suggestions, amendments.

Organizing a dinner can take days - deciding on a date, a time, a venue.  All of this is done publicly, under the observation and commentary of the other members of the group.  Everyone can add an opinion, about anything, at anytime.  Opinions are free, and we all want to do what is best for everyone.

It's a very kind way of organizing, and very inclusive.  And it suits everyone, and it's free. 

The problem is... time isn't free.  Organizing via individual invitation takes a set amount of time.  Organizing through hive mind communication has no defined time commitment.  It could take days or weeks, you could need to reply with many positive agreements or supportive options.  Maybe everyone has a different option.  Maybe you had an idea but others have another idea and everyone wants to be polite.

The cost of all of it is time.  Fractured bits of time, unclear negotiations, and a the potential for a steady low level anxiety that you're doing the wrong thing, or said the wrong thing, or are being too bossy or indecisive.

All of this extra time and anxiety is centred somewhere.  If women are traditionally/historically the primary social planners and organizers they become the default carriers of any additional load from the planning process. 

This transition happened so quickly, so naturally, that I don't think we remember how it used to be.  I don't remember it taking this much time to plan something.  I don't think the plans we make are changing, so it can only be that the way we plan is changing.  I wonder if we're generally aware of any gendered implications of that change.


  1. What a thought-provoking post! I am on a group chat with a bunch of other women and we occasionally try to plan get togethers. The organizer has streamlined the process a bit, by first sending around a survey to find out which days/times were generally best and since then, sending around a survey asking us whether or not a specific date/time works. But it's still not simple! And the time consuming thing for me is all the REPLIES. Everyone responds, and there's always this (very nice! but also kind of perfunctory/performative!) slew of people thanking the organizer and commenting on why they can't come or how excited they are to make it... it's A Lot. And I'm not even the person making the surveys and reviewing the results and booking the restaurants! My husband, on the other hand, has a group of friends who meet monthly, on the same weekday, at the same time, at the same location and if you can make it, you just show up. That seems like SUCH a better (if more boring) way to do it!

  2. Clearly, I haven't organized anything in a long time (and our local circle of friends is so small that scheduling is usually just a matter of finding a day that works for both parties), but yeah, I can how social media or messaging services with group chats makes this much more complicated than it has to be. I like what Suzanne said about her husband and his friends having a monthly meeting on the same weekday and whoever shows up, shows up.

  3. I, too, have not organized anything beyond meeting one person for a meal VERY occasionally, so I have no experience with this. But... I can totally see where you are coming from just based on my family's group texts. I love them but... sometimes I just want them to stop. Just for a little bit. :)

    1. That's sort of the problem - you do want to hear from everyone and it is nice but also it takes up a set amount of time that we may not have wanted to allocate to those things!