Keep Your Group Chats Small — or It Could Ruin You

Big group chats create unnecessary chatter, and anxiety

Angela Lashbrook
Debugger
Published in
6 min readFeb 24, 2021

--

Photo: Adem AY/Unsplash

Poor Heidi Cruz. In her attempt to liberate herself from the devastating and deadly historic storm in Texas, where her husband Ted Cruz is a senator, she discovered something terrible: There is a mole in her group chat.

After Ted Cruz was caught at the airport flying to Cancún in the midst of the disaster, he told reporters that his children had asked him to take them on a trip. But within just a few hours someone leaked texts from a group chat that included Heidi. The apparently not-so-lovely group chat of 11 people is (or was) titled “Lovelies.” And the text revealed that in fact, the trip appeared to be Heidi’s idea.

A relatively large group chat is, clearly, a terrible idea for a public figure concerned at all about discretion. But what about for the rest of us? Is an 11-person group chat ever a smart idea? How many is too many before a group chat spirals out of control?

If you want to avoid the kind of friend group-destroying scandal that is surely wreaking havoc on Heidi Cruz’s “Lovelies,” keep it smart and keep it small. Even if your texts may not end up on the nightly news, there are other potential consequences like cognitive overload, strained relationships, and missed communiqués that get lost in the deluge of messages and end up biting you later.

Among group chats’ greatest weaknesses is that, unless your phone is off or you’re out of service, you are always theoretically available to receive, and hence respond, to a message. This is a good thing in case of an emergency. But when we’re being inundated by messages from various screens day-in, day-out, it can quickly become overwhelming. Add a pandemic to the mix, when many folks who work from home are basically assumed to be always available, and the avalanche of texts about the latest drama can become a responsibility to attend to, not a fulfilling conversation with low stakes.

Because group chats can occur at any time of the day or night, they require continuous decision-making that isn’t as present in real-life interactions, according to David Neumann, PhD, a professor of communication at Rochester Institute of Technology. “The person needs to make a choice…

--

--

Angela Lashbrook
Debugger

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.