You may think that, in the grand scheme of things, the group chat will inevitably go the way of Vine, Firefly, and the Woolly Rhino. You may also think that elephant eggs grow in rhubarb trees so let me assure you: group chats are here to stay.
The concept isn’t original. We all know how it starts, a brief message notifying everyone, “Hi all, this is the Stuff and Nonsense Class group chat. Can people add anybody who I’ve missed? Cheers! Xx”. Additions are made, lives are ruined.
After the first few messages establish the basics (i.e. which room we are in, when the seminars are, what planet this is), the subliminal takeover by two or three mainstays begins, while the rest remain silent watchers in the darkness. These mainstays provide the main source of conversation, usually by making sure you know the answer to a question already asked three times. Often, they also provide newfound questions you might not have pondered during, for example, the previous 20 times you’ve written assignments, such as ‘do titles add to your word count?’.
The greatest sin of group chats, however, is the incessant echo chamber of self-deprecation they provide. The so-called comfort of appearing to fail ‘together’ provides nothing but nervousness for everybody involved. Sharing concerns and getting help seems to be the point of group chats and, while I would never dispute this if someone’s cause is genuine, opening the chat to messages such as ‘omg I’m so behind’ or ‘I’ve still got 600 words left lol’ provide absolutely nothing to anybody, never mind help your own mental health. It simply creates waves of insecurity. If you really are behind, why would you post that thought on a group chat? Do your work. After all, do you expect future employers to reply with, ‘yeah I get you mate, lol x’ when you get a job?
“But”, I hear you say, “why don’t you just mute the chat?” Good idea. And my response? In a word: no. Why should I? That isn’t the point of group chats. An actual response to such nonsense would be better, be it thinly veiled sarcasm or straight up ‘stop talking crap’. Yet there is always a lingering sense it may end up being horribly cruel to the parties involved, and eventually land me in a human rights court.
As Yuval Noah Harari points out in his mind bending book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, one of the main reasons humans rule the world is due to our ability to work well with total strangers. So why are class group chats a sodding nightmare? For me, the point is this: if you are genuinely in need of help, people will always help you. People do care and there are plenty of services out there designed to help. However, maybe group chats shouldn’t be one of them.
Be brave – have faith in your own abilities, stop terrifying everyone else and, maybe, while you’re writing that assignment, turn your phone to silent.
Group chats are here to stay…unfortunately.
Image: The Tango! Desktop Project