It’s hard to imagine a world without texting, though it’s still a relatively new way to communicate. For most of us, it’s a daily part of how we get and send thoughts and messages. It can also cause an information overload, especially when it comes to group texting.
Some statistics, as cited by Elizabeth Holmes in The Wall Street Journal: According to Simmons Research, more than nine out of 10 smartphone users employ a messaging app. So we're basically talking universal use here. A third of users send at least 95 messages a week, and more than one in six sends 23 messages a day, the research shows.
That’s a lot of messages. And it’s often amplified during a group text, when the speed at which people contribute to the conversation can be dizzying, even confusing. Not to mention the notification of each new message, which can be irritating.
This helped inspire Holmes’ story, titled “My Group Text Is Driving Me Crazy.” Group texting, she writes, “seems to inspire a certain love-hate feeling.”
“It’s an efficient way to plan a gathering or keep in touch with close friends and family,” she explains. “It’s more immediate than email, less time-consuming than the phone. It is also an etiquette minefield. Messages may arrive in rapid succession, landing in the middle of the workday or overnight. Conversations rarely start or finish and instead become an endless stream of mundane questions or random thoughts.”
Those of us with text-obsessed friends or family members know that feeling of them constantly lighting up our phone in a group text. For the smartphone user that doesn’t bother turning on silent mode, the constant notification sound or vibrate noise gets old pretty fast for those in the immediate area.
The sound element is easy enough to eliminate, but patience can still be tested. Holmes features Mike Marra, a New York attorney, as an example. He was part of a group text with high school friends, but the conversation veered into “play-by-play of every Mets game,” she says. Marra didn’t engage in the texts, but would soon see that he had hundreds of messages. That was enough to bail out of the text group, which inspired jeers from the others: “They have specifically berated me for being too good for the group text.”
Basic understanding of the conversation can be tricky in an active group text. Those that tend to send several single-thought texts quickly, one after the other, can make it hard for others to comprehend the subject at hand. And those that join in without reading the text trail can further derail the conversation.
So clearly, people have different tolerance levels for group texts. Alexis Kleinman of The Huffington Post developed a list of “commandments” for group texting. Here are a few of her tips:
Avoid the all-nighters: Night owls may want to keep the conversation going into the wee hours of the morning. Those that don’t fully engage may have an undesired reading list in the morning. “I know you’re not supposed to look at your phone immediately upon waking up, but let’s be real,” Kleinman writes. “My iPhone is my alarm, and it’s the first thing I see in the morning. So when I wake up to a billion texts, it starts my day on a stressful note. It’s not ideal. Consider stopping the chit-chat around midnight, for the sake of your friends.”
Keep your phone on silent: A bit of a no-brainer, especially in public settings. “It’s very annoying when someone’s phone is constantly dinging or buzzing because they’re getting a text a minute,” Kleinman says.
Slow it down: Don't contribute to the text-flurry confusion, Kleinman writes. “It’s hard to keep up if there are a lot of people texting at once, and there are inevitably many trains of thought and conversations happening at once. To keep confusion to a minimum, let a moment or two pass between texts. Your friends will thank you.”