Is the group chat having a detrimental effect on our mental health?

Naureen Nashid /
Mar 12, 2018 / Opinion

Group chats have become a pivotal part of social culture for millennials.

Some people have several, while others have that one core group who they talk to everyday, sharing everything from office gossip to pivotal, life-changing decisions. With the ability to name the group chats, distribute endless amounts of memes, and react to each and every single message, it’s really upped the game of how we interact with our friends and peers.

Being a part of a group chat has many pros. To start, there is a feeling of being included, which is always nice. Your group chat is your clique – a collection of people who you deem worthy to bring into your circle, whom repay with support and love. Nowadays, most friendships are virtual. Most of us don’t have the time to meet up with people, spend hours talking on the phone, or get to know each other like we used to. Instead, it’s easier to be put into a group chat where you can sporadically text all your friends at once and let them know what’s up. By being able to constantly be in touch allows you to form a bond with each and every one of them with minimal effort. It’s what millennial friendship is all about.

However, it’s not all plain sailing. As an introvert, it can be difficult to engage with one person – let alone three (or, in several occasions, more) at once. Being in a group chat can sometimes feels like those moments when you’re hanging out with a group of people IRL and everyone’s walking in a line, but you’re somehow in the back, trying to keep up with their pace and the conversation.

It can create a lot of insecurity, too. For example, when you drop a line in your group chat and no one responds. You don’t just get ignored by one person. You get ignored by a whole group collectively. Ouch. Similarly, there are times when two or more people from a collective chat decide to meet up, leaving some other members out. It’s a really shitty feeling, and if the group chat never existed, it wouldn’t really be an issue. In fact, it’s completely normal for people to meet up and hang out without inviting everyone within their group. Somehow with group chats, it just feels different, like an unwritten and unspoken rule.

From experience, I’ve found that after something controversial is said, people within the group often message individual members to talk about whoever said it – and why. Tone is incredibly difficult to read over text, so naturally, sometimes words are misinterpreted. As if IRL drama wasn’t difficult enough, now it’s constantly happening on our phones.

The discourse never stops, either. I’m someone who, from time to time, enjoys the quiet. I like to be by myself and not socialise for my own satisfaction and mental health. Group chats, on the other hand, always keeps going. Other members of the group chat talk as much as they want, and even though you want peace and quiet, you’re still locked into it even if you don’t contribute. Muting the conversation only goes so far because the annoying red notification will always be there, forcing you to open the thread and look. Then, you’re faced with the guilt of feeling like you have to say something otherwise someone else might get upset. Not everyone likes replying right away. Taking time to send a text, or doing it at your own time, shouldn’t feel so hard or draining.

While I’m not entirely against group chats, I often find myself moving away from them. While I’m all about friendship and having a core group to talk to, the insecurity, drama, and constant chatter is just not worth it sometimes. There’s no harm in stepping away – or switching off. 

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Words by Naureen Nashid

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