There’s nothing worse than the school WhatsApp group

If you thought the government’s private messages were bad, try the PTA’s, writes Victoria Richards

Tuesday 07 November 2023 07:40 GMT
Why would any of us choose to translate this kind of grief into an IRL encounter?
Why would any of us choose to translate this kind of grief into an IRL encounter? (PA)

Things reached such a climactic trigger point over on the year 7 WhatsApp group this weekend that a new group was created (what fresh hell, etc) specifically to narrow it down to “Info & Comms” and the name of the original group changed to “Opinions & Chat”. Now, want to guess which one I’ve archived?

I’ll admit it, there is truly nothing worse (or better) than the school WhatsApp group. I feel stuck in my own personal iPhone Room 101: unable to keep watching, unable to look away. It’s like that scene in A Clockwork Orange, except that instead of wire clamps prising my eyelids open – forcing me to stare at the screen ahead as I whisper “no, please, no” – it’s entirely me doing it all by myself.

I mute the madness, but then I see that stealthy little “3” for unread messages at the top of my screen, and find myself going back in for more – desperate, somehow, against my better judgment, to find out what Cindy’s mum really thinks about the school council elections, or what Dante’s dad feels the PTA should do about the state of the trampoline, or what Phil197865233 has to say about Tuesday’s jacket potato options, and how the tuna was a “bit dry” and “it’s not good enough” and someone “should really call Ofsted to complain”.

And then, of course, someone else complains about Phil197865233 complaining, and then Phil’s mate – let’s call him Bill197865239 – tells them they’re being an arse, and everything goes up in flames.

Before you know it, there are a billion side snides taking place in smaller WhatsApp groups elsewhere: the mums who knew each other already from primary school, the ones who’ve reconnected after 10 years apart after nursery – “thank God you’re here,” we LOL. “Thank God for the sanity of this group.” Fnarrr. Then: “Is anyone going to the school disco?”

And all I’m left thinking is... err, no? Why would any of us choose to translate this kind of grief into an IRL encounter?

Do you really want to awkwardly toe tap to The Pogues with the woman who thinks “the kids aren’t given enough homework, the teachers don’t know what they’re doing, the headteacher’s an idiot and the school governors are going to hear about this – little Fernando is in his room crying right now because he was only given one sheet of equations – was your child? My child was. Fernando was. To sweet Fernando, Maths is like breathing.” All that and “Fairytale of New York” hasn’t even finished.

It’s a bit like binge watching Selling Sunset on Netflix: I know school WhatsApp groups are no good for me; I even wrote about how terrible they all were during lockdown, and then wrote about it again (and didn’t get invited to the PTA party as a result. Which was fine as I can play The Pogues at home).

But what’s worse is that I was only talking about primary school then, and now it’s secondary school, and there are a hundred more people’s “opinions” and “chat” to wade through, like sticky GB News-style treacle. I understand that it’s eating up precious hours of my life I’ll never get back, and I can see how it brings out the worst in people, including myself – yet I stay there anyway. It is a type of Stockholm Syndrome. It is my bête noire. And I will never, ever leave.

So, why do I do it to myself? To be honest, I have no idea, and it’s a good job we’re all in therapy. I am a glutton for punishment despite recently deciding I’d try and do away with toxicity. I have “muted” conversations with certain people in my life who make me stressed, given that life/work/parenting/romance (delete as applicable) is hard enough for all of us.

So the last thing any of us need is to dive into the murky waters of who thinks the school is s*** at communication, or whose lunch money wasn’t taken even though they’d charged up their child’s lunch card, or “is the school football team competitive enough because David Beckham did grow up around here, you know” – AS THOUGH THAT WILL IN ANY WAY AFFECT YOUR CHILD’S ABILITY, CLIVE.

I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to the drama. I want to leave, I do – but I can’t. Just when I thought I was out, I pull myself back in. I have FOMO for the worst social experience in my life.

“Victoria has left the group” – when Phil197865233 is still typing? Nah, I can’t do it. I should. But I can’t. Could you?

*Names changed for diplomatic reasons

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