We Need To Talk About Group Chats.

21.02.19

When we look back on our generation, fifty or sixty years from now, there will be fewer frameworks of communication that reveal more about the human psyche than what we have come to know as the group chat.

Yes, nothing exposes our constant need for approval, connection, entertainment, gossip and get-togethers quite like the group chats we spend our days diving in and out of. WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, Instagram DM’s, Facebook Messenger – they are now inescapable and I belong to no less than 15 on any given day. Just last week I was added to an already-established group chat with four girlfriends for the purpose of exchanging Hadid/Jenner/Kardashian gossip and I was genuinely honoured and moved. I have so much to give!!!!! There’s the group chat with my high school friends and the one with my university friends. The one with my current flatmates and the one with my previous flatmates (that really serves no purpose at this point). There’s the one with the friends I exchange celebrity news with, the one for the Met Gala and the one for the Royals. There’s a chat for my sisters and I, for my family, for my family plus boyfriends, for my family minus Charlotte (mum thinks Charlotte will feel left out if she see’s us making plans on this side of the hemisphere without her but to be honest I think Charlotte enjoys the peace). And I learnt recently that Isabelle has a chat just for her, mum and dad. Pardon? I didn’t know this. What do they talk about? And why can’t they discuss it with the rest of us?

With group-chatting now at epidemic levels, you’d assume the etiquette would be clear. But it’s still such a grey area and people are getting burnt. Should you announce when you’re “leaving” a group or just leave? Can only the Admin add new members or is this a democracy? And if you forget to add someone to an event group should you do the late-add or just admit that your friendship will never recover?

It will come as a shock to no one that I occupy the role of The Sensitive Group-Chatter. I will compulsively reply to every single comment in every single group chat because I don’t want anyone to feel unseen. As an SGC I will also seldom initiate group plans out of fear that no one will reply and I’ll just explode and die. An SGC will rarely “leave” a group chat because they don’t want to risk looking rude, instead they will patiently endure the back and forth of bank account numbers and logistical planning even when they’ve made it clear they’re in Christchurch for the weekend and cannot attend the girls lunch on Waiheke. Hell, I’d probably still put in $13 for a group birthday present even if I’d already purchased my own just to be accomodating.

Isabelle said to me last week that she thinks our family chat is just Dad and I sending articles and images back and forth. I think what she was trying to say is that Dad and I are the backbone of our family. Without us, the group chat would go weeks without a single message and only the occasional photo of the dog posted by Mum (last night Mum sent us a photo of George lying on the terrace “enjoying the view”. Riveting content). Charlotte is, for all intents and purposes, absent and disinterested in the group chat. Issy is a meerkat, only rearing her head when there’s a discussion of a family holiday. But me? I’m in. I’m committed. If you comment, I’m right there with you. Let’s go Dad. Send that Sideswipe article and that photo of your tomato plant. I will lift you up!!!

Now, if you’ll excuse me.

*Madeleine Walker has left the group*


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club