Chang has left the group

2016-12-04 06:07
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It’s that time of the year: things to do, places to go and parties to plan, and that inevitably means that, somewhere along the line, you will be added to yet another group message.

Group messaging can be either a godsend or your worst communication nightmare and, at this stage of the year, no one has time for more nightmares (we’ve had our fair share this year).

Instant messaging platforms have mushroomed in the past few years and, if you own a smartphone, you’ll already have had to become adept at juggling more than one messaging service.

First there was just SMS (the good old days?), but now, if it’s not Facebook Messenger, it’s WeChat, Google Hangouts, Kik, Snapchat or, inevitably, WhatsApp.

Most people use WhatsApp and, unfortunately, most WhatsApp users have also discovered the joys of group messaging.

A year ago, it was still quite novel to be part of one of these group chats. It made sense.

It was practical, quicker than email, informative and generally restricted to a few rare, seminal events. But that didn’t last long.

It soon progressed from private groups to public ones – your neighbourhood blockwatch, your church group, a child’s birthday party.

From there, we simply got less discerning and started group chats for almost everything and, with that, all social-media etiquette went out the window: not that everyone had quite grasped that there are unspoken rules of cyberchatting.

Ask anyone about WhatsApp group messages and (a) everyone has more than one group conversation active on their phones and (b) everyone has their own itch to scratch about one of their groups.

Neighbourhood blockwatch groups seem to provoke the most reactions.

It really is a good idea to connect with your neighbours, especially in suburbs with high walls, or simply in an era where we don’t connect as much with people we live in proximity to.

But there is a fine line between watching your neighbours’ back, and wanting to know everything that happens in the hood.

Neighbourhood WhatsApp groups have become the cyber equivalent of surreptitiously peeking through the curtains to see what your neighbours are up to.

Helpful information can slide quickly into the cyber equivalent of “across the fence” conversations.

In real life, there’s no guarantee that you will get on with your neighbours, so why do we think that a WhatsApp neighbourhood group message is any different?

Twitter has taught us that typing a couple of sentences from the safety of your phone can have disastrous consequences.

WhatsApp groups are proving to be the same and, the larger the group, the greater the chance that someone will create some drama, and there’s always that cantankerous neighbour who is ready to take the bait.

However, it can be hilarious when someone mistakenly sends something deeply personal, meant for an individual, to the group.

There’s nothing like a bit of Schadenfreude to ease the irritation of group messaging.

A lone, prolonged and irrelevant conversation between two members of a group seems to be the one thing that drives the rest of the group ballistic, which brings me to a few basic rules of group messaging, especially for the holiday season.

Never have a satellite conversation with just a part of the group or another individual.

That’s the equivalent of hitting “reply all” on email at the office. And it’s just as irritating.

Don’t randomly create a group that is not of common interest, and then add people (you think) will have an interest in the event.

That’s really annoying and people will exit your group like they’re fleeing the plague. You will feel like a leper.

However, exiting a group that is relevant to you is always tricky. Most of us have a graveyard of WhatsApp group messages that we feel obliged to keep.

If you have to stay in a group long term – like a neighbourhood group – keep your distance and sanity by simply muting the conversation and becoming a voyeur.

Unless it’s an emergency, don’t start broadcasting random thoughts and suggestions to your group at odd hours, and especially not after a few glasses of wine.

A WhatsApp group is not your personal dictaphone, and people have lives and their own schedules.

Just as you shouldn’t text and drive, you shouldn’t drink and text. That’s when you post musings you shouldn’t, or mistakenly send a sext message to your church group. #awkward

If you really have to exit a group, the correct etiquette (apparently) is to ask the administrator – who added you in the first place – to remove you, rather than leaving abruptly.

I don’t know about you, but an approaching new year seems to be a good time to clear out all dormant and/or vacuous group chats. It’s been an exhausting year.

My Fomo indicator is on “low”.

So, no offence, but I’m exiting the group.

Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more trends, visit fluxtrends.com

Join him on MetroFM tomorrow morning at 6.30am, when he discusses these trends on the First Avenue show

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