A fascinating BackChannel article calls WhatsApp ‘a draft of modern Syrian history’ – it’s providing a degree of intimacy and connection between people spread across countries and continents.
Emojis are widely used between parents and children of these refugee families who may not be old enough to write – and these are the same children from a generation who will grow up to find the distinction between written and visual communication increasingly blurry. This isn’t a new theory, but it is becoming more prevalent which we elaborate more upon in our upcoming book on Dark Social. (I recommend following Christina Xu on Twitter for more on this - @xuhulk)
Regional variations abound in Dark Social cross the world – for example in many countries it is the norm to leave voicemails on WhatsApp – possibly because they like the informality as well as the ease and speed compared to regular voicemail. The power of the familiar voice in an incredibly stressful situation cannot be understated.
So how can governments and political organisations capitalis on this?
We’ve seen examples of ‘broadcasting’ for the public good – the BBC did this using WhatsApp during the Ebola crisis. This was a one-to-many use of Hidden Social, as opposed to one-to-one or one-to-small group.
We’ve also worked with companies in the health sphere who are beginning to realise that Dark or Hidden Social channels can be a great way of disseminating information to people who are suffering form the same disease, or expectant mothers for example.
Social movements should also strongly consider using Dark Social as a way of mobilising troops, providing them with relevant information, conducting ad hoc discussions. All of this can be a much more powerful tool to combat so-called ‘clicktivism’, where people consider themselves ‘activists’ by merely supporting a cause on Facebook and then doing nothing about it.
Likewise, it is only a matter of time before political parties cotton on to using Hidden Social as a tool in their campaign box. Whether it’s organising troops on the ground, local activist groups or even mobilising people to properly support online from home, Hidden Social will become a vital battleground in elections to come.