A source of endless FOMO for many, group chats with your best friends are the sort of modern-day invention that, like work drinks or your college roommate’s bridal party, you yearn to be included in… until the exact moment that you are, at which point you curse yourself until your dying day for being complicit in such a pure form of tyranny.
If you had to do it over – you wouldn’t. Nor would you wish it upon your worst enemy. But no matter; by now, if you’re in a group chat, there’s likely no getting out of it. Most of us are at the point of no return and, like a case of mild scoliosis, we must now learn not how to rid ourselves of these immortal, modern-day conference calls, but rather how we can all most comfortably coexist.
CHECK IN ONCE EVERY 30 MINUTES
There’s just something about looking at your phone and reading the words “93 unread text messages” that triggers a flood of crippling FOMO, anxiety, or a toxic mix of both. The goal is to never reach the point of being knee-deep in an endless swamp of unread texts. “Can I liiiiive?!” you shout at your phone, hoping you didn’t accidentally press down on the voice message icon. No one can just brush off 40-plus unread text messages with a quick “TL;DR”. Even when you glimpsed the topic of conversation, and know that what you’ve missed out on is a debate about cashew cheese that went on for far too long. (You can’t convince me it’s cheese.)
You know this, and yet you also know that the other day, your doctor friend announced in the same group chat that she thinks she found a correlation between IVF users and melanoma. And so you scroll. You scroll up for what feels like an eternity, in the hope that, folded deep inside the cashew cheese couch cushions of this painstaking, joyless conversation is a pretty important medical discovery. Which is why it’s crucial that you check in every 30 minutes.
REACT ON YOUR OWN TIME
In a group chat, it’s common courtesy to show a sign of life at least once every three days, even though you’ve made use of the necessary “Do Not Disturb” feature. But if that sign of life is iMessage’s new “reaction” feature – or a “tapback,” as they’re called – then quit while you’re ahead. The torment engendered by clogging your friends’ phones with 93 notifications is made demonstrably worse when those notifications include tapbacks. Because the thing about tapbacks is, one, they’re lazy, and two, they’re incredibly self-serving. No one has ever received a heart on their message and thought to themselves, “Man, am I lucky.” The sole purpose of tapping back is to lessen the guilt the tap-backer feels from not speaking up. But at the price of whom, I ask? At the price of what?!
To be on the receiving end of a tapback is to be digitally lacerated. I’ll set the scene: A notification that Karen “disliked” your text pops up, and then upon opening your phone, vanishes. Lost and confused, you are now left scrambling to find the elusive text that Karen thumbed down and, by extension, your sanity.
I say the only viable excuse for tapping back is polio. Any reason outside of that is offensive and, frankly, smug.
It’s easy to lose yourself – to lose your very essence, what makes you “you” – in a group chat. It isn’t me to entertain a conversation about cashew cheese, let alone allow it to persist for longer than 22 minutes. And yet, that is the spineless woman I – and you – become when thrust into the dynamics of a group chat.
Which is why it’s important to foster individuality at every opportunity. When your most cynical friend gushes over photos of your dog or feigns interest in Bachelor in Paradise, tell her to drop the act, stand down, and remember where she came from. You want the old Karen back. Remind her of her hereditary aversion to all animals, and particularly dogs, as well as the time she temporarily blinded herself with a rogue squirt of Sriracha sauce, on purpose, at a colleague’s Bachelor viewing party. Be the voice of reason, and your friends will thank you for it.
TALK ABOUT GOING ON A GROUP VACAY – AND NEVER GO
Whether it’s Cuba, Patagonia, or The Maldives, the trick is to always discuss this hypothetical trip with extreme gusto, and to do so – like clockwork – every three months, but to never actually go on said trip. Even better if you never leave your home.
You see, you want your group of friends to be the type that could go to The Maldives together – that could, at the right moment, just get away from it all together, turn off, kick back, and have a rad time. You want this unshakable, enviable sort of bond, but more than that, you want to never leave your bed.
STOP IT WITH THE MONOLOGUES
When in doubt, if it’s not socially acceptable IRL, then it’s not socially acceptable in your group chat either.
Got a fun meme to share? Been blocked by Shane West on Raya? Just learned the meaning of ‘extra’ and eager to use it in conversation? “Fab-o”, as my mom would say. Just hold off until talk of Karen’s ex’s wedding video dies down. It’s 25 minutes long, for God’s sake; have some respect.
Everyone talks to themselves in group chats to a certain degree, but there’s a difference between occasional bursts of narcissism and turning the chat into your own personal and interactive wedding Pinterest board. Never use the chat to push your own personal agenda – or, as they say in post-apocalyptic-speak, never “turn” on your friends. If you do, you are legally considered a desperate hoe.
Follow Rachel Hodin on Twitter here @RachHodin