What is Kakao Talk?
Kakao Talk is one of the most widely used instant messaging
applications in Korea. One of the reasons that made this application special out of many other mobile communication applications is their signature sign '1' next to text bubbles that disappears
as soon as the receiver reads the message.
What Does “1” Signify?
The '1' sign was initially introduced to indicate the number of people who read the message in group chats, it was then used in
one-on-one chats to further numerically signify the other person.
This simple numeric function of a sign '1' has not only offered us with greater convenience, but also produced various responses
This research explores how technological development in
communication tools has changed the ways people communicate,
especially after the introduction of Kakao Talk. This research also
examines how and why the sign ‘1’causes people to react in certain ways on interface.
KAKAO TALK INTERFACE
As soon as messages are sent,
the sign ‘1’ and the time appear next to
the message bubble, subconsciously urging the receiver to respond.
The date notification that pops up after midnight
makes us feel as if it is part of the conversation thread.
The pointy tails of message bubbles that come out from
profile picture make us feel as if the sender is
directly speaking to us.
The more people talk by sending message bubbles, the faster
it scrolls up. It makes us to keep up with the speed of conversation
that makes us feel as if we are
washed away by a strong wave.
Kakao Talk has many different
emoticons to help us express
our feelings on interface.
Such emoticons, however, tend to
be bright and silly, which often
dilute our sad or angry feelings.
The exit alarm that pups up
in the middle of conversations
to inform that someone has left
the group chat gives a public attention.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF '1'
-The following extracts are taken from the book,
“The Psychology of 1”-
The Stories about Conversations
“I remember in few years back, the ways we talk to people were quite different from now.
When we were young, we used to contact friends by calling from home or texting with our cellphones.
It is surprising to realize that it has been only three years since I began to send messages using smartphone in real time.”
People communicate through various ways, and new
communication modes continue to emerge within quickly
changing societies. In our daily lives, we are constantly
influenced by how we communicate and which
communication mode we use.
The ways people communicate have gradually, yet, dramatically changed depending on the means of communication, such as face-to-face interactions,
phone calls, text messages, websites, and SNS.
Time Intervals Within our Conversations
What if the intentions behind time intervals within our conversation can be indirectly delivered?
SNS sends and records messages.
Similarly, Kakao Talk indicates the time the message
was sent, along with the '1' sign next to the message bubbles to signal the sender whether or not the message was read. As a result, we are unconsciously illusioned as if we are measuring the time.
We feel as if the time of each conversation is prolonged by visually recorded time and intervals.
'Ilgssib,' Read and Unresponded
'Ilgssib' is an abbreviation of read and unresponded
in Korean. It is often used as a slang in SNS when the receiver reads but doesn't respond to the messages.
This word did not exist until SNS expanded through increased numbers of Kakao Talk users, many of whom had their messages read, but left unresponded.
After sending messages to someone, most of us silently
wait for the other person to respond.
But if we do not receive any response even after
the '1' sign dissapears, we begin to wonder and
overthink in our heads.
"What happened? Is he/she busy?"
"Did I do something wrong?"
We feel ignored and disrespected by the other person
for not responding to our messages.
Consequently, unresponded messages are more often than not misunderstood by the receivers, resulting in unintended disappointments and overthinking.
As such, the word Ilgssib and a disappeared '1' with no response signify complex feelings and thoughts underlying between the sender and the receiver.
Why Do We React Sensitively to ‘1’?
A Sign That 'I'm Listening to You.'
The sign '1' on Kakao Talk conversations functions as
a reality medium to show that the sender is listened.
The sign '1' on Kakao Talk distinguishes from simply sending texts messages; it simulates conversations in reality space.
In virtual space, authenticity of conversations is easily
questioned due the absence of physical interactions, such as eye-contact, hand movements, and facial expressions. Yet, in Kakao Talk, the sign '1' functions as an 'eye-contact' that helps people project the counterpart's attitude and signals whether or not the other person is listening.
The Weight of Conversation
The sign '1' helps us feel the weight of conversations.
Kakao Talk does not limit the word counts, nor does it charge fees. Different from text messages in which each word is written with attention, Kakao Talk provides space for people to freely 'talk': you can send couple words when bored, say simple and unimportant things to kill time.
However, the sign '1' weightens up the level of conversation by giving people a sense of presence with
a subtle signal of a mutual respect to respond upon reading the message.
'1', Insignificant, yet, significant
All our psychological and emotional reactions together are the result of virtual presence of the 'other' that is numerically symbolized as '1.'
We often overthink and overreact to conversations we have on virtual space
because all these interactions are part of real life relationships.
People are now becoming more and more intertwined with smartphones;
as a result, our real life is expanded to virtual space. The '1' is therefore a reflection of insignificant, yet, significant part of ourselves,
hoping to be listened and cared by others.