Are you constantly pinging back and forth between chats?
Im in a fair few WhatsApp groups. There are the usual suspects: Groups for friends (college friends, work friends, housemates, friends from Down Home), groups for planning (shout out ‘October Trip’, you were a good one) and groups for family (there are five million of these due to some family members not fully understanding that groups can be reused. Apparently this is a difficult concept to get your head around). Equally important, though, is the Glam Gals group for discussion of make-up and skincare, the dogspotting group for sharing pictures of good boys and girls, and of course, the soup group, where friends and strangers literally just talk about soup we have made or eaten. That’s a particularly nice one.
It may seem like a lot, and it occasionally is, especially when you land back in to approximately 294 messages, 50 percent of which are between two people who could easily have taken things elsewhere. But I can’t picture life now without these groups of friends
in my pocket, always ready to discuss the latest gossip or sympathise after a crappy day (or, indeed, talk about soup. Beautiful soup).
Patricia, 22, agrees. “I’m in lots of group chats with my childhood friends and I find it’s the best way for us to keep in touch,” she says. “As we’ve gotten older, it’s hard to make time to meet up, so having our group chat means we can update each other with the little things that happen every day that we otherwise wouldn’t get time to chat about. I feel like if it wasn’t so convenient to keep in touch in our chat, it’d be very easy for us to fall out of contact. If you need opinions on outfits or just general problems, one quick text will get to all of your pals at the same time.”
It’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t have these little virtual rooms to hang out with our nearest and dearest in, isn’t it? Imagine waking up after a night out and not being able to roll into the group chat, your phone memory quickly filling up with all the incriminating screenshots, pictures of beige food, and ‘look how hungover I am’ selfies being shared. The sweet relief of knowing everyone else is in the horrors too, unavailable to you. Imagine hearing a juicy bit of news and wanting to tell everyone at once but not being physically able to. Nightmare! Or imagine just never feeling the thrill of seeing that someone has left a series of voice notes (because the best stories always come in a series of voice notes). God, it doesn’t bear thinking about. But like any social setting, the dynamics of the WhatsApp group, even the ones devoted to things like soup or fry ups, are delicate.
Everyone plays a particular role, whether they know it or not. Whenever I hear about celebrities having WhatsApp groups – the Royal Family has one, apparently, as do the main cast of the Harry Potter films – I’m immediately ravenous for details. Who’s the one constantly spamming the group with screenshots? (That’s definitely Prince Harry.) Who’s the lurker? (Prince William.) Who got roasted and left in a huff before begging to be added back in? (deffo Beatrice.) Who’s the power – mad admin, booting people out for questioning their authority? (Kate. Or maybe QEII herself, if she WhatsApps.)
The app has thrown up its own kinds of modern tragedies, too. There’s no heartache quite like putting a meme in the group chat only to be met with complete radio silence – or worse, seeing a sad little “Anyone up for the cinema tonight?” left to languish until hours later, when someone eventually chimes in with something completely unrelated. Or suspecting that a splinter group is discussing what the rest of you are saying in another group that you’re not privy to. Not cool. Or getting a notification that your dad has added you to the group ‘Kids’, thinking “Aww, that’s cute”, then opening it to find that he’s sent you and your sister a picture of an enormous spider that has taken up residence in the shed (this actually happened. Thank you Dad.
This is exactly what WhatsApp groups should be used for). I’m able to overlook these things because each group I am in is home to a different part of myself. The college me, the me from Down Home, the me who loves beauty products, the me who went on a trip in October. I know that, whether I’ve discovered an amazing new product, heard someone from school has had a baby, or had a particularly nice soup, there are at least five people out there who give a shit. And that is very comforting indeed.
And if you don’t have enough WhatsApp groups? Don’t feel inadequate, start one! The soup one literally came out of nowhere and then spiralled once mentioned on Twitter, and proves there is no topic too big, too small or too niche. Plus, being in such a group could even make you more friends. Win, win, I say.
The Family One
Dad jokes, mam sending stories about Bernie down the road’s sister being in
the audience of the Late Late, little sister accidentally sending in messages meant for her mates.
The Best Mates One
Where you don’t even need to speak properly, you’ve a language all your own. Also peppered with gas voice notes.
The Work One
Slagging the boss, ripping the piss out of one another, telling each other you’re going to be ten minutes late and to cover or else.
The Funny One
AKA meme central, where you try to out-gas everyone else all day errryday.
The random One
Where you share screenshots with like-minded people, from influencer eff-ups on Insta to texts from men that require decoding.