It’s a shame you can’t unsubscribe from group texts. This week I was one of the recipients of a never-ending text bacchanal with a bunch of people I didn’t know. But it wasn’t fun or consensual. It was just a good reminder that we need to talk about text etiquette.
It would be a helluva lot easier to just say “stop texting me, oh please for the love of god stop texting me,” and for that to actually… work. But like it or not, texting — and group texting especially — are facts of life. And as with most facts of life, they come with some unspoken rules that, for some, need to be spoken into reality.
I have one friend in particular who is an especially severe offender. We’ll call her Carmen. I love Carmen, and she is a dear friend, but Carmen has a tendency to fire off group texts of links or photos or something to like, nine people at once. It’s not the what’s inside the text that’s offensive — it’s the act of gangbang texting that is at fault.
The worst part of these chains of smartphone-based terrorism is that there’s generally not any organising principle at play other than “people the sender knows.” You know how annoying it is to get replies from numbers you don’t recognise you don’t know? Try five in a row. It’s the rebirth of the chain email, a format that blessedly died off (for the most part) years ago.
Group texts also never improve with age. After the initial missive is lobbed off, the near-strangers start responding. A third of the people on the thread might think said image macro or link is funny, and they respond as such. A third might think it’s dumb as hell and that group texting is harassment, and they respond as such. And the last third sits in excruciating silence, hoping they will stop being held captive by textual assault in this lifetime. It’s like being at a party that you didn’t want to go to and didn’t RSVP to, but suddenly you awoke from a fog right next to the punch bowl anyway.
As a last resort, you can block numbers. But that isn’t exactly the answer. Most of the time when you’re being text molested, the perpetrator is someone you know. So you have to tread lightly.
So how do you proceed? As with life, you are probably not going to change someone else’s behaviour. That’s fine, it’s how the world works, life isn’t fair, etc. etc. But you can abide by some rules yourself, and hope that the laws of Karma bring back good things to your life.
A Few Rules For Group Texts
1) If you’re sending out a group text, the people in the text should all know each other. The only exception to this rule is if you’re sending out a reminder to an event or a party. In that case it’s perfectly fine to send out a blast, because you’ve minimized the chances that people will write back.
2) It’s ok to ask people to cool it. Unless they’re arseholes, which they very well may be, they should respect your request. I have a group thread with two old college roommates, and when I went to CES back in January, I asked them if we could mute things until I came back. They were totally fine with it. When I returned back to from the brink and reentered functioning society, I came back to our texts.
3) Conversely, you should respect a request to STFU. Unless you’re a dick!
In short, group texts aren’t evil, but they can be annoying as hell. But we can get through it with a little common courtesy.