How To Make Friends and Family Use Secure Messengers

5 Jun 2020

How To Make Friends and Family Use Secure Messengers

You’re not special, just use WhatsApp like everyone else.” – people that have “nothing to hide”.

Words can hurt more than actions. In this case, the complete lack of actions and apathy of people towards someone’s urge to get more privacy can be even more torturing. 

If you have ever had an uneasy conversation with friends and family members that brushed off your suggestion to change a communication platform – just know that you’re not alone. Facing opposition and catching questioning looks is a norm for those who try to “promote” a secure instant messenger. People just declining your offer is actually not the worst-case scenario. 

The real tough break is when you are perceived as a potential terrorist, a criminal, or just a weird cat for taking an interest in something less data-hungry than the usual suspects.

Oftentimes these chats, or rather arguments that start as badly as they end, are a big waste of time, and do not bear the expected results. But sometimes they could actually go well and make a real difference! 

Through test and trial, StealthTalk Team have drawn out some of the better approaches to warm people up to applications like Signal, Wire, Threema, and of course our own messenger StealthTalk. Here are some of the “do’s” and some of the “don’t” to know before even starting “the talk”.

Never Ask People To Delete Their #1 Application

First thing to know is quite straightforward – do not persuade people to delete applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, as most people rely on such apps everyday.

In the eyes of the listener, you’re not only starting off negatively, but you’re pointing out how their main communication channel and the primary source of entertainment is bad for them. Although that may be true, people won’t interpret it as a caring advice, but rather as an attack on their established beliefs. Try not to sound condescending when someone disagrees with you.

One thing to note – although factual evidence is important for understanding the value of the product, feeding people vast amounts of intellectual information under the impression that it will drive decisions does not work well. Whether we like it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, decisions are driven by emotions. The vision of the listener and not your own vision is what drives people to the eventual decision. 

Therefore, highlighting privacy benefits to people who are used to living in a world void of any respect to their human rights is not the best strategy. Additionally, such a drastic change in communication is always discomforting. When compared to the functionality of the biggest apps, secure messengers indeed lose an uphill “feature battle”.

Please do not push people to delete the apps they use for work and comfort, just ask them to use another application on top of those they already have. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Even then, you have to be patient. With so much happening in life, people can take a while to even remember about your suggestion. In this case, applications are not that different from TV shows or video games you wait your friends to check out for three and a half years. 

Realization is not instant. It might take years before something clicks with people, or they understand how much of their personal data is out of their control if they don’t take a stance.

Everything takes time and patience. Pesky sales people call this a “long sales cycle”... Do not blame people for sticking to their old choice if your crusade falls through. If anything, you are risking to alienate yourself by reacting negatively to rejection. People have their reasons and deserve respect even if they don’t see the eye to eye with you. 

You just have to let some people be.

Understand The Perspective of Others

If talking about secure messengers is a battle – you better choose your battles carefully. 

It really doesn’t make sense to express the benefits of end-to-end encryption to someone that can not imagine their life without the buzz of social media and everything that goes with it. Like anything else, people will not use something they don’t see any value in. 

You may have tried to sign up for some secure messenger yourself only to realize that nobody is there, and abandoned it soon after because it was practically useless.

Try to understand who you really need to see on the private side, and try to find out what could be useful to these people beyond the ability to communicate with you directly. Not only this approach will save you a lot of energy, but it will make people see that you truly care about their wishes.

Some people won’t know what end-to-end encryption is, and would tend to choose something they like more visually. It is a normal behavior. Not all secure messengers look like they were made 15 years ago, so there’s a wide array of choices. If the person is down to it, maybe experimenting with a couple of apps may work. Just don’t offer too many applications at once – the lack of focus is really detrimental to the chances of the app being used later on.

It may have sense to first talk to people that have similar life experiences, beliefs and vision as you. You may start off by sharing an article, watching a movie, or just talking about a topic of privacy. From there, the interactions seem to flow much smoother, and you let some quality content do the “dirty job” of persuasion for you. God knows there’s a lot of awesome documentaries and books about surveillance effects on human rights online.

Another point about perspective is authority and reputation. Hearing a spiel about data protection from an ex-NSA worker turned whistleblower is more interesting than having to condone a sloppy elevator pitch of your friend.

Oh well, here he goes again about his AES 256.”

Know your people, and more importantly – know your audience. Do not try to persuade people in large groups to do something at once, if they are less receptive to your offers overall. You can have a person listening keenly to what you have to say, and then someone can just joke about it and the whole magic is gone. Group gatherings collect more opinions, and the more opinions there are – the more chances one of them would not match yours.

Also, you should also understand the product you’re talking about. If you criticize WhatsApp about their faulty security, then talk about encryption, you absolutely can not stutter when someone points out a logical question.

But WhatsApp also has end-to-end encryption!”

True, but media and messages you back up aren't protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in iCloud” is much more appealing than “...Facebook BAD!”

Acknowledge your peers and their input to the conversation and have enough in your locker to back up the initial claims. 

Manage Your Expectations, Take Security Easier, Always Wear Sunscreen

One thing to understand when preaching about instant messengers to friends and family, is that you took your shot, and the possible positive outcome is just a pleasant bonus that comes with it.

It’s like shooting hoops in the gym. You probably don’t set a goal like “I want to shoot 40% from the three-point line, and if I fail, I will be very disappointed.” You just go out there and have fun.

You’re never tasked to meet some goal of “converted” people. It is critically important to feel good about your efforts to help others, and take no harm when people don’t see eye-to-eye with you.

That is a useful advice in respect to security overall. Security is a feeling, and when security becomes jading, it really starts losing a lot of sense. Data protection and digital fingerprint management can become overwhelming and energy-consuming very quickly. The goal is not to become the most isolated person online, but to maintain a healthy privacy balance without spending all your time and effort on it. 

In a world where 90% of people will trade away any amount of privacy for even a small gain in convenience, any effort is remarkable and helpful. Remember that some things are beyond our control, and you just need to let people come to their own conclusions.

Don't worry about the future, or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Lastly, one little reminder to think about. 

Context of your interactions with people matter, and you have to be open-minded to their initiatives too. For example, if people ask you for a favor, or invite you somewhere, you can surely reject the offer, but after that you can no longer expect for the similar favors to be done to you.

Help people out, do something for them. Be more open to offers and people will be more receptive to your advice. And of course, don’t make security a bigger bore than it already is. 

Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too, will get old. 

Thank you for checking out this blog post, feel free to explore more articles in our blog. If you know how to make friends and family use secure messengers – tell us how on Twitter.And of course, always wear sunscreen.

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