Since the beginning of civilization people much smarter and more courageous than I, have guided humankind toward new frontiers. My ancestors were explorers, inventors, and intellectual thinkers. That’s a lot to live up to, especially in today’s society.
By comparison I’m a 27-year-old male who grew up in the suburban, concrete jungle of a small Canadian city where I lived in my mother’s basement until the ripe age of 24. I am of average smarts, my savings account recently reached four figures, and I was courageous, once.
However, while I’m no Magellan, if there’s one thing I do know it’s how to navigate the complex social code of group chats.
For nearly two decades, I’ve spent time in chat rooms, message boards, forums, threads, comment sections, inboxes, outboxes, simulated realities (looking at you, Coke Music) and MindMazes. In fact, it’s entirely possible that I’ve spent more time communicating with other humans screen-to-screen than I have face-to-face.
And, I like to think, that during that time, I’ve become something of an expert, nay, a prophet.
So gather round as I preach the ten commandments of group chat. A universal guide to communal communication that’s relevant no matter which platform you are using.
No one wants to be stuck in a group chat that’s going nowhere. Gone are the days when group chats were one way streets, without a way to reverse. So if you don’t like it then step on it, and get the hell out of there. Leaving a group is possible, so if you’re not into it, bye now!
You know the saying it takes a village? It applies to group chats, too. A quality group chat needs everyone firing on all cylinders. No one likes the guy who hasn’t said anything for days. Don’t be that guy.
That’s right, I said days. Oh, you have some contacts on your phone who talk about fantasy football every Sunday from September to February? Or, you and your boyfriend and another couple have been planning a trip to the Okanagan sporadically over the last two years? Don’t insult me. If you aren’t in a chat, on the front lines and in the trenches, every damn day of that barely awake, fleshy half-life you’ve been living, you don’t know what a group chat is.
Many chat platforms (chatforms) – *ahem* – many chatforms have a naming function, and the naming of a group chat is crucial to its success. The longer a group chat exists without being given a proper moniker, the more likely it is to dissolve into that sticky, dark-media dimension known as the group chat graveyard – think Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King meets parallel universe in Interstellar meets the jam scene from Spaceballs.
And, while we’re on the subject; when it comes to actually naming your group chat, please PLEASE make it catchy, meaningful, and short enough to fit within your chatform’s designated title space. That means you have to stop with the “Jeff’s Wild and ExTrAvaGant NeW OrlEans Bach PaRty of WildNeSs whEre wE SmaSh beeRs and oUrSelvEs” and, I beg of you, keep the emojis tasteful and to a minimum.
I know, you just found the next best, most insane thing ever. Believe you me, we all just found the next best, most insane thing ever. We’re in an age of constant discovery. A different way to drink coffee, an unknown hike, the newest rapper, the best app, song of the year, latest Trump story. It’s all happening, all the time. I get it. But, keep the links to a minimum. Not everyone in the chat can, or even wants to, keep up with every article written about Trump’s handshake saga.
Now that you’re an expert in moderation, remember to provide backstory. There’s no greater evil in this world than the friend who texts the group chat, hey, did u guys see _____?!??, without providing a link, or at the very least a screenshot, regarding whatever the hell they’re on about.
Send selfies, your surroundings, which office mug you’re drinking out of that day; send it all. There is something about a picture that makes the chat feel real, man. It’s happening now, we’re in the moment, together. Share your poorly lit selfies and your up-close-and-personals – this isn’t social media.
To paraphrase another modern social prophet, the great Ferris Bueller once said “Group chats move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and read every message from every group member all the time, you could miss out.” Group chats are fast paced. Hup, hup!
The most important rule: group chats are about fun. Top banter, staying in touch, inappropriate photo zoom-ins, your darkest secrets, inappropriate emojis, terrible selfies, disagreements, pile-ons, enlightening conversations, breaking news, I could go on forever. These are the things that make up a successful group chat, and when you boil them all down, let it cool, and start drinking the group-chat kool-aid, it’s all about the fun.
When it’s over, it’s over. If you have to scroll down for more than three or four seconds in your messaging app to find a group chat, do not resuscitate. It’s fine, you gave it the old college try and you may have even had some fantastically chatty times, but you need to be able to identify when a group chat isn’t working. It’s not you, it’s us.