You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed by group chat messages. You are not alone
They can also cause anxiety and stress. These were the top three issues I found when I studied group chat dynamics.
It can be overwhelming to receive the volume of notifications and messages generated by group chats.
In My Research, one participant remembered accidentally leaving her mobile at home and returning, only to discover that she had missed 200 messages from a group discussion about buying a gift for a birthday.
Another said that the most active chat started at 8 am and did not stop until 1 am.
Recent surveys in the United States of America and the United Kingdom suggest that this is a widespread problem. 40% of respondents said they were overwhelmed by group chat messages and notifications. Some notifications come from email, social networks, calendars, apps for news, etc.
Many people manage this by muting group chats. This can lead to missing out on important information, plans to catch up, or the need to constantly check in to see if there are relevant conversations.
People can also find the chaos of group chat conversations overwhelming. In large groups, multiple conversations can be running at once, making it hard to keep track of what is being discussed or planned.
This can lead to group chats being ineffective at completing the tasks that they were designed for. Planning can become a mess, especially in large groups.
A participant in my study described a group conversation about a gift for a birthday that was sidetracked when two people were catching up.
Another person described a disastrous group conversation involving 20 people attempting to organize a potluck meal. Instead of reaching a consensus on who would bring what to the potluck, the discussion devolved into an argument about whether potlucks are a bad idea. One person insisted that professional catering would better accommodate dietary needs.
- You don’t like being there, but you can’t get out.
The awkward or difficult social dynamics can also be a challenge. People can join groups that they would not have chosen.
For example, a woman joined a group because she organized a gift to be shared with a colleague. She was not happy about contributing to the present, but it was too awkward for her to leave.
It can sometimes feel as if you are lurking. Kev Costello/Unsplash
When relationships change, it can create a challenging dynamic.
One participant shared with me a story about a group message started by four friends as they entered university. One year later, one friend had become distant and largely silent, while the others still used the group chat to chat and arrange catch-ups. This dynamic was incredibly uncomfortable for my participant, who became cautious when starting group chats.
Some participants felt trapped in group chats and would rather leave. They were reluctant to quit the group because of the blunt notification that “x has left,” but ignoring it was equally uncomfortable.
The rigidity of group chats often causes these challenges. You’re either in or you’re not. This doesn’t always fit with our complex relationships. The challenges can also be made worse by unclear social etiquette when it comes to group messaging.
In group chats, the most challenging issues are those that involve social exclusion.
Back Channel Groups are a way for group members to communicate privately about the events in the main chat.
Participants described the most dramatic situations where people were kicked out of a group because they disagreed or felt that the chat was too big.
Read more: Research Check: is it true only half your friends actually like you?
Research suggests that being removed from a group is rare and mostly occurs when a relationship has ended.
It can cause anxiety to guess whether you have been excluded from group chats, not only because you may miss out on cat videos and gossip but also any plans you had for catching up in person.