As WhatsApp rolls out the new ‘Channels’ feature, we republish a letter that was sent to Anash.org and published a number of months ago, raising grave concerns regarding the new addition.
By An Anonymous Bochur
WhatsApp is a vital tool that many Chabad people use, including bochurim. It allows us to stay in touch with our families, friends, shluchim, and rabbonim in a convenient and secure way. WhatsApp was always considered relatively clean and kosher, compared to other social media platforms that are full of inappropriate content and distractions.
However, this may soon change with the introduction of WhatsApp Channels, a new feature that will allow users to follow people and organizations that matter to them in a separate tab called Updates. WhatsApp Channels is a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls to their followers. Users can find and join channels through a searchable directory or invite links sent in chats, email, or posted online.
This sounds a lot like Twitter or any other social media platform, which in no way could be considered kosher. In fact, WhatsApp Channels is specifically made to compete with Twitter and attract more users to its platform. Social media is known to expose users to harmful influences, waste their precious time, and lower their standards of tznius and kedusha. Even if WhatsApp claims that Channels will be private and protected by strong privacy measures, we know that there is no guarantee that the content will be appropriate or beneficial for our neshamos.
I am very concerned about this new feature, since WhatsApp is already downloaded on just about everyone’s devices and people will probably shrug it off without realizing it is a full-on Twitter-like social media. I fear that many of us will be tempted to follow channels that are not in line with our values and mission as Chabad chassidim. I also worry that some of us may create channels that are not suitable for our audience or purpose.
Therefore, I urge all of us to be vigilant and cautious about this new feature. We should not compromise on our standards of communication and information consumption.
One possible solution is to switch to Signal, another chat app that is similar to WhatsApp but does not have the Channels feature. Signal is also much more encrypted and secure than WhatsApp, so we can communicate with more confidence and privacy. Alternatively, we can disable the Updates tab on WhatsApp or limit ourselves to only follow channels that are relevant and kosher for us.
WhatsApp Channels is a threat to kosher communication. We should not let it undermine our commitment to Torah and Chassidus. We should not let it interfere with our connection to Hashem.