Advanced KakaoTalk paranoia tips
Imagine that you are out somewhere and you meet a cute Korean of the compatible gender. Being the suave individual that you are, you exchange Kakao IDs. So easy! So much less pressure than exchanging phone numbers! You congratulate yourself on your suave ways, go home, and, after an appropriate time, decide to send your new crush a message.
You want it to sound casual. You consider, “Hi, how’s it going?” before realizing that they might not be familiar with that English expression. If so, you’re going to get a confused, awkward reply. “How what goes? Sorry, my English is not good ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ”.
So you decide on “Hi, how are you?” Simple style!, as my students like to say, whenever they do a half-assed job on something. To make it seem more friendly, you decide to append a KakaoTalk emoticon to the end of the message. You consider – what character expresses my casual tone best? Apeach, with its ass-like head, or
Black Jay-G**See the postscript, the vaguely racist squirrel thing with an Afro?
You decide to play it safe with Muzi, the radish in a rabbit suit. Your message perfected, you hit send, and…
Nothing. No reply. Welcome to KakaoTalk hell.
The little 1
The agony of waiting for a reply to a text message is not a new phenomenon, and has been explored in BuzzFeed articles and the like. But Kakao adds a new layer of complexity. As anyone familiar with the app knows, when you send a message, your text appears with a small 1 next to it, indicating that the person hasn’t yet read the message. When they see it, the 1 disappears.
That’s the theory, anyway. In reality, it’s a Byzantine world of etiquette and illusion. The 1, by the way, indicates that one person hasn’t read it yet. So in a group chat it will display a different number, depending on the number of people in the conversation. This number will count down as people read the message. This can lead to its own sort of paranoia, and messages like this:
But let’s stay with our scenario. Not only has your crush not replied, but the little 1 has not disappeared.
Have they not seen your message? Of course they’ve seen it! As everyone knows, KakaoTalk conversations display a snippet of the conversation on the Chats screen, which you can read without deactivating the 1. And you can also swipe down your notifications and read the most recent Kakao message in full, before deciding to ignore it.
There’s an etiquette. Deactivating the 1 and then ignoring someone is rude. But leaving the 1 and reading the message via your notifications is fair game. It creates a polite fiction: sorry, busy! Didn’t see your message!
(Of course they saw your message. It’s Korea. Nobody goes five minutes without checking their phone.)
As you wait, you will be tempted to check the conversation from time to time, to see if the 1 has disappeared. So, six hours later, you check in, and the 1 has disappeared. They’ve seen your message! You contemplate this for a moment, and re-read your own message – yep, that was a good choice of emoticon. As you are doing this, disaster strikes. Your crush replies! Because you are looking at the conversation as it comes in, your own 1 is deactivated instantly, and your crush can see it happen.
You are now crazy stalker person who has been staring at the conversation for six hours straight. There is no coming back from this.
Advanced Kakao Paranoia Tip #1: Resist the urge to constantly check if the 1 has been deactivated. And if you do check, get in and out quickly, especially if the 1 has disappeared.
The quick emoticon follow-up
Let’s assume that you avoid this particular disaster. You wait. You steel yourself. When they do reply, you tell yourself, you will not look desperate and check the message immediately. You, too, know how to swipe down and read the message without deactivating the 1. Let them wait for 6 hours, wondering what you’re doing and why you haven’t replied!
Six hours later, they reply. You hear the familiar KaTalk! chirp. Followed immediately by a second. You check your phone, swipe down your notifications to read the message, and see this:
Instead of putting their emoticon on the same line as their message, your crush has used the ninja move of following their message with a quick emoticon follow-up. This makes it impossible to read the message without getting rid of the 1. The Kakao Talk chat screen is no more informative than the notification screen, and not only can you not read the message, you may have no idea if the emoticon they’ve sent you is Muzi and Con embracing, or Frodo as Burberry Man.
You are now faced with the miserable choice of waiting, not knowing what message your crush has sent you, or looking (“Sorry I was busy ㅠㅠ. I’m fine, thanks, and you?”), and, by doing so, making it clear that you are the desperate one.
Advanced Kakao Paranoia tip #2: To prevent the other person from being able to read your message without deactivating the 1, follow your first message with a quick emoticon. Don’t overuse it, though, or it starts to look as deliberate as it is. Alternatively, a short, non-informative follow-up message like “ㅋㅋㅋ” or “ㅠㅠ” accomplishes the same goal.
The ultimate Kakao paranoia weapon
Is there no way to defeat the quick emoticon follow-up? Actually, there is. Ladies and gentlemen, there is (as they say) an app for that. Actually, there are several. They all do more or less the same thing: they intercept the notifications and save them to another place, where you can safely read all the messages without deactivating the 1.
There are at least two specifically for Kakao: KakaoTalk Notification+ and KaTalk Preview. Unfortunately, for some reason they aren’t compatible with my phone, so I’ve been using a third, more general one called Shinobi, which seems to work OK.
Advanced KakaoTalk Paranoia Tip #3: Use an app to intercept the notifications. Never feel compelled to deactivate the 1 again!
Alternatively just live your life, answer when you have time, and don’t worry about how it looks to the other person. If you are one of these people and can live that way, you have my admiration and envy. But for those of us for whom life can never be so simple, I hope these tips will help.
Left unanswered in my original post was the important question – what exactly is “the vaguely racist squirrel thing with an Afro”? Recently, KakaoTalk’s English twitter offered to answer questions:
— KakaoTalk (@kakaotalk) January 8, 2015
…and I couldn’t help myself:
Some other people got in on it.
— stella lee née lee (@treeliruli) January 8, 2015
We got an answer!
— KakaoTalk (@kakaotalk) January 9, 2015
So there you have it. Jay-G is a mole. Kudos to whoever runs the KakaoTalk English twitter for a classy answer.