Group chats have revolutionised the way we communicate with friends, family and colleagues.
Seen a funny meme? Share it with the squad. Deciding when to have your next book club meeting? Liaise amongst the group. Need to organise a Mother’s Day present? Discuss it with your siblings.
Whatsapp group chats - for they are nearly always on Whatsapp - are the norm nowadays. Whereas once you might organise your life and chat to your friends through Facebook, we now do it all over Whatsapp.
And when you're in a friendship group, this can lead to a decline in individual conversations due to the rise of the group chat. After all, if all the girls want to know about how your date went last night, it’s easier (and more fun) to dissect the evening altogether rather than in individual conversations.
God forbid you are the person who doesn’t have their phone on them when the chat kicks off though - good luck ploughing through 132 messages later on.
However, as with the rise of all new technologies, there’s no etiquette guide or rule book. And this can lead to trouble.
Use group chats incorrectly and you could actually be weakening rather than strengthening your relationships.
Here are the do’s and don’ts of group chats:
Do keep the chat relevant to everyone
Is there anything worse than two people in the group having a conversation that doesn’t concern everyone else? In the world, yes. But in Whatsapp groups, probably not.
Before you take to the group chat, think about whether what you’re about to say is relevant to the whole group. And if not, message that person directly and spare the rest of your mates all the notifications.
Sometimes it’s more than annoying too - if one person in the group can’t make it to a social engagement the rest of you are all attending, they can start to feel left out if you discuss it at length in the chat.
“If everyone in your group chat is going to a party that you opted out of because your ex will be there, reading about every detail can be hurtful and make you uncomfortable,” psychologist Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim explained to Well + Good.
“It might increase your anxiety because you may read the messages even more frequently to not miss anything, which can make you feel worse because you’re not a part of it.”
And it’s important to remember this when you meet up in person before or after the event too.
Do use the group for support
One of the best things about a group chat is that if you need someone to talk to, there’s usually at least one of your friends who can reply straight away.
So whether you need a pep talk before a date or consolation after being rejected from a job application, one of your friends should be able to get back to you instantaneously.
And if more than one of your mates is by their phone and able to reply, all the better! Group chats are ideal for getting reassurance when you need it most.
Don’t get into in-depth conversations or arguments
If things start to get heated, shut the discussion down and decide to talk about it face-to-face.
Whatsapp isn’t the place to discuss divisive issues as tone and meaning can be misconstrued over message.
“If a disagreement starts, clearly state that you are happy to discuss the issue, but that a group chat is not the place,” advises Hakim. “Then move the dialogue outside of the group chat setting.”
Do bear in mind other people’s lives
Whilst you might be able to be sneakily on Whatsapp all day while sitting at your desk at work, not all your friends may have this luxury, and it’s important to remember that.
“A decision might be made in the group chat that affects you and you may not get a say because you don’t have time to check the messages,” Dr. Hakim explains.
“You may feel that you are less important to the group or that your opinion isn’t needed or considered.”
If you haven’t got time to read every message, just send a quick one to explain exactly that.
This works both ways too - if you feel like you’re always messaging and your friends aren’t replying, you can end up feeling rejected or like they don’t care about you.
“Realise that due to work and other obligations, not everyone will respond promptly to every ping,” Dr. Hakim suggests.
“Pick up the phone or text someone privately if you need to hear from them quickly and don’t notice their response in the group chat.”