I’m in class. I’m trying to take notes and figure out how I might ask a question or provide a constructive comment. I’m trying to pay attention, I really am. But I can’t. Because my phone keeps buzzing in my pocket. Every couple of seconds, a tiny jolt of vibration hits me in the thigh and pulls me just slightly out of the moment. This isn’t a problem I’m equipped to deal with. Nothing in my life experience is helping me come up with a solution. I’m trapped in a group text. And I can’t get out.
Am I being dramatic? I don’t think so. I feel like a total noob even admitting that I have this problem. I mean, cell phones and text messaging have been mainstream for a long time now. As a society, we’ve already gone through the growing pains of having our devices become these omnipresent objects that we deal with at the forefront of our lives. Seriously, when was the last time you even read an article complaining about cell phone etiquette? There is no more cell phone etiquette. Our phones are just always out and there’s no use even addressing the issue anymore. I’m actually kind of embarrassed even to be bringing this up.
But somewhere along the line, and I think it’s a pretty recent phenomenon, we’ve skipped over this whole idea of a group text. There was never a bridge from texting to group texting. It’s like, one day I looked at my phone and saw that I had eighty-five text messages. And I swiped to the home screen and opened the messages app and saw that I was part of a bigger chain of messaging. I was part of a group text.
“Hey, can anybody work for me this Tuesday night?” one of my restaurant coworkers had sent this message to me and thirty other restaurant coworkers. “No, sorry baby, I’m out of town this week!” and, “I’m already working! Sorry!” Did I miss the transition from one-on-one texting to group texting? They kept pouring in, everybody responding not to the sender, but to the entire group. And each time I’d have to go through the increasingly annoying task of, feeling my phone buzz in my pocket, swiping, checking the message, and putting my phone back in my pocket.
It got to the point where I’d start texting the whole group stuff like, “Hey, can we maybe stop doing group texts?” And yeah, people would stop. Maybe. Not really. I came to see group texts as these flare-ups. They’d start out of nowhere, and once they picked up a little steam, they were impossible to quell, despite my begging to be removed from the group.
“Please remove me from this group text!”
What does that even mean? Remove me from this text? Who? Who’s supposed to do the removing? That’s the thing with group texts, there’s no one person in charge. Once the first group text is sent, a bond is formed, for better or for worse, amongst those included as the original recipients. Please remove me? Impossible. That’s not how it works. Getting stuck in a group text is like your cell phone catching a cold. It comes out of nowhere, it sucks, and despite all of your protests, there’s really nothing to be done. You just have to let it run its course. Eventually they die down, and eventually they’ll flare up again. What do you want me to tell you?
That was like two years ago. It hasn’t gotten any better. If anything, group texting is even more messed up now than it was when it was introduced. The latest iPhone software update assured me that I’d be able to exit a group text. But I don’t know if I’m doing it right, because I’m only sometimes offered that option. If everybody else is using an iPhone, yeah, I guess sometimes it lets me leave the group. But then the few times I’ve ever successfully left a group text, it’s like the rest of the group sees my abandoning the thread as an invitation to add me right back in. What am I supposed to do in that situation? What’s my recourse?
And like I said, that’s if it gives me the option to leave. Most of the time it doesn’t. I just keep getting text after text after text, messages that have little to nothing to do with my needing to be involved at all. Like, “Hey everybody, do you guys want to hang out tomorrow night?” And I’ll be like, “I can’t, sorry.” That should be it. I should be done with the text messaging. But no, I have to sit here and listen to everyone else weigh in on whether or not they’re available. And then what time is everyone getting together? And do you think we could push dinner a little later? Like maybe to eight o’clock? But no, eight o’clock is a little too late. Can we do seven-thirty? Seven-thirty works for me, but can we do it somewhere a little closer?
And it just doesn’t stop. What about your one or two random weird friends that still use a Blackberry? Does anybody else notice that those texts never come back on the group, but are always sent as standalone texts? And how come sometimes I’ll get three or four different group threads, but they’re all basically the same group, minus one or two random people? Why is this so complicated?
Yeah, this was really long and totally whiny, but it needs to be said. Because it’s getting in the way of everything. Whenever my phone comes down with a group text, I’m basically at the mercy of the herd. Like when I’m in class and my phone starts chronically buzzing.
I know, I know, if it’s that big of a problem, I should just put my phone away during class, right? But who does that? I don’t know about anybody else, but my phone permanently resides in my right pocket. If it’s not there, it’s lost. I’m not taking it out on the off chance that it might come down with a case of group text. That shouldn’t be something that I have to deal with.
I don’t know what the answer is. The whole point of text messaging is the ease of instant communication, which absolutely serves a specific purpose. But that purpose gets weighed down by pointless group texting. There’s got to be a better way. Because group texts are the worst. And there’s no way I’m going to go through my phone and reading ninety-three missed text messages.