Downtime

Must People in Group Chats Constantly Talk About Their Group Chats?

A message up with one million unread messages.
Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo/Slate. Photo by Apple.

Is one of the requirements of being in a group chat that you must allude to how great your group chat is a certain number of times a day? Multiperson chat mania hit its zenith this week when a piece in New York magazine argued that these chats are the antidote to everything that’s terrible and world-destroying about social media, but the main thing I got from it, if I’m being honest, is that the author participates in “between four and 18 active group chats,” which he just happened to mention in the very first line. Geez, someone’s popular! It was an annoyingly good piece, and after I read it, I watched the people I follow on Twitter post the link approvingly, kindly informing us that they, too, are in great group chats.

It’s a thing you hear now, people gushing about their chats. There are even group chat memes. Last week, when Constance Wu briefly went rogue on social media, I saw a refrain all over Twitter, as if it were “duh”-level advice: Save that kind of complaining for your group chat, Constance! Some of this group-chat worship makes them sound not just fun but almost transcendent: As Slate’s own Nicole Cliffe tweeted a few months ago, “The ascent of the Group Text is a truly joyous thing. My group texts are everything to me.”

The group chat, it is understood, is the center of gravity around which modern friendship revolves. If the Friends were young people today, the group chat would be their Central Perk. But with the rise of the group thread comes the parallel rise of another important constituency: the people who are now paranoid that they’re not part of any or enough group chats. These are my people. Every time conversation turns to group chats, I feel a little jolt of worry: Why am I not in 18 group texts? Are people leaving me out because I have green bubbles? Why didn’t anyone tell me my habit of texting my friends individually had become totally passé? Is this public hand-wringing over group chats going to further reduce my chances of getting into some? I miss the old days of a few years ago, when I had concrete numbers, like my Twitter like and follow count, to feel bad about, rather than the vague specter that everyone is group texting without me.

This anxiety is all borne of group chatters’ habit of talking about their group chats constantly. If the chat converted are in fact using other social media like Twitter less, maybe they miss the dopamine hit that likes and retweets used to bring to them, and therefore they need the dose of cachet they get from bragging about their group chat. Because make no mistake, it’s bragging. What else should we call enthusiasm for a service whose defining feature is that only you and your friends get access to it? (Won’t anyone think of the lurkers?) My proposed solution is that you shouldn’t be allowed to talk about the multiple amazing group texts you’re part of unless you plan to invite everyone listening to join them. Same goes for people who complain about how many notifications they get from their group texts. That must be so hard for you!!!

Or, like I said, maybe I’m just jealous. Maybe I need to make an exclusive new group chat just for people who feel paranoid about not being more popular. But that would probably have to include the entire internet.