Monday, February 3, 2014

The Dynamic of the Group Chat

Happy February, everybody! I hope you're still committed to your New Year's Resolutions and you're keeping warm during the Polar Vortex. As most of you reading this are in the Northeast, I hope you enjoyed the brief warm spell we had this weekend. Okay, now before I turn into one of those people that is so terrible at small talk that they resort to commenting on the weather, I'll change topics. Believe it or not windchill isn't what I wanted to talk about today. Instead, I thought I'd talk about a topic close to my heart: the political schemes and dramatic downfalls of the GROUP TEXT.



At the present, I'm probably included in 4-5 group chats, ranging in number from 3 to 9 contributors. Some of these group chats are just smaller versions of larger groups and usually start as a result of trying to coordinate lunch one day, but without fail all end up being at least 60% awkward. Now even if you have the most communicative and engaged group of friends, I guarantee your group chats go through similar stages.

When you first initiate a group chat, you can't help but feel your heart go a-flutter. Much like those fun and quippy groups of friends in your favorite sitcoms, (think F.R.I.E.N.D.S or How I Met Your Mother) you're apart of a posse. Not only are you apart of a posse, but you're apart of a posse that's quick-witted and built on the foundation of mutual understanding. You talk about nothing and you talk about everything; conversations can be as pressing as making plans that will start within the half hour or as pointless as taking pictures of the sky. Either way, it's fun for all involved. I'd compare this to the honeymoon phase of a romantic relationship, with the constant communication and showiness of affection.

After that seemingly endless chain of texts, the group chat becomes a little more chill. The messages are reserved for making plans or passing along vital information, or at least whatever the sender considers to be 'vital'. A good 90 percent of the time, these texts are acknowledged by a few other people in the chat, even if it's just to say "cool" or "lol", and for some reason this is reassuring as the sender. It's kind of the equivalent of a meek thumbs-up or a nod in passing. I'd go ahead and call this the cool-down period if it were a relationship, where mutual liking it understood and therefore doesn't always need to be proven. I'd argue this is the sweet spot for both relationships and group chats, but as human interactions tend to do, neither will stay in this sweet spot for too long.

Once more time passes in the group chat love affair, we enter stage three. You'll know you're in this territory when the group chat in question is buried under a few more of your text exchanges, so you'll have to scroll a while if you're looking for it. The messages sent are gone unnoticed more often than not when this happens; not for lack of caring, but because you've grown comfortable with the sender enough that you don't need to ensure they have your approval. The sender should probably anticipate this, though if you're the sender there's a chance you may get a little miffed when no one responds to your message. If this is the case, take deep breaths and remember it happens to us all. At this point in the group chat, it may feel like you're returning to the scene of a raging party the next morning when everyone else has gone home. Or, if you like the relationship analogy, you could say this is the point where the couple goes to bed at night without any chance of funny business under the sheets. It's not the best place to be, but remember this may just be a weird pocket of time that'll pass.

So anyway, I hope you understand what I'm talking about here, otherwise me and my texting habits might appear strange. Before I sign off though, I'd like to take the time to remind you that a bad group chat does not a bad group make. Even if you don't use your phones to constantly be in contact, your friends are still cool. I just want to make sure I'm not making anyone antsy or paranoid here. With that in mind, have a good week and I guarantee we'll talk soon!

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