It begins innocently enough. Organising an event. Sending some photos from a recent meetup. You only expect a few messages and maybe even a couple of gifs. But it only takes one person for it all to spiral out of control.
The First Circle of the Group Chat: Stickers.
At one point in recent internet history, Facebook came up with the interesting concept of stickers. They were fun at first, and the perfect way to end a conversation without the all too obvious rejection of a simple thumbs up emoji. But in the group chat they took on a different meaning. A sticker between a couple of friends is amusing. A sticker between ten friends becomes a terrifying hellscape from which there is no escape. Cartoon cats pour in from the underworld to wreath their sneering smiles all over the group chat. They destroy any activity that gets in the way of their never-ending showcase. Want to watch a Youtube video? Try again, the stickers will cause so many notifications that your phone may just explode.
The Second Circle: Typos
One misspelled letter and the witch hunt begins. The other members will come at you with laughter tipped pitchforks and torches burning with the inevitability of memes. A strange sort of humour has emerged from the creation of the group chat, in which you misspell a word and immediately you receive at least ten messages in which people are just repeating the typo back to you, and finding it painfully hilarious. If the typo is good (or bad) enough, then it may be immortalised forever. Three months down the line it could still be thrown back in your face as a cruel reminder of your inadequacy and made the title of the chat so that you can never escape the brutal truth that is your pixelated illiteracy. If you want to avoid maximum typo-induced shame, never try to use the words ‘duck’ and ‘clock.’
The Third Circle: Third Wheeling.
It starts with just a few too many ‘x’s but then it becomes a situation that no-one really wants to be part of – where two people are shamelessly flirting in the group chat and everyone else has to watch over the situation, shrouded with awkwardness. There is a time and a place for the blowing kisses emoji, but under the watchful eye of five other people is not the right one.
The Fourth Circle: The Secret Messenger.
There comes a moment in everyone’s life when a difficult decision needs to be made. It could make or break relationships, and it could change the fate of your life forever. The group chat is on fire, the gossip is going strong, and some controversial messages are arising shamelessly from the depths. There are the onlookers and the participants, but whichever side you’re on, it is significant. And then, just as you’re settling down with some popcorn to watch the madness unfold, another message pops up on the screen. Someone wants to discuss the events of the group chat without the judging eyes of the others, and they have entrusted you with their secret. On the one hand, they could be dragging you into the pits of rejection alongside them if the others were to find out, but on the other…allies equals power.
The Fifth Circle: Lost Signal
One day we all come to the realisation that there is life outside of the group chat. Friends. Family. People who can remind you what real human interaction is like. You remember how it feels to see a smile, to hug, to speak. But it comes at a price. The price of 500 unread messages upon your return. They don’t wait for you in the group chat. Anyone can get left behind at any time and no-one is going to help you out. It’s every man for himself out there. You could just join in the conversation at its current point, but there is the horrible ghost of Fomo (Fear of missing out) haunting your every emoji. What if someone sent a hilarious selfie that will be forever remembered but never found again beneath mountains of edits and memes? What if someone made a typo? What if someone revealed that they were pregnant or married or a celebrity in disguise? So you force yourself to trawl through hundreds of message, eyes burning as the screen sets your retinas ablaze with every minute wasted, just to find that all five hundred messages were stickers. Your heart crumbles. Your faith in the human race itself is lost. Your fingers fall from the screen and your arms hang limply at your side, unable to escape from the fatal grins of those jeering cartoon animals.
The Sixth Circle: Arguments.
If you want a life free from pain, don’t express your political views in the group chat. And if you must, when someone opposes you immediately get out of there. Your excuse doesn’t even have to be well thought out. Just. Get. Out. I have spent three hours straight in the group chat debating feminism and heteronormativity with a self proclaimed socially right wing meninist. It would be an understatement to say it was painful. Piercing headaches that make it feel like your brain is ready to die, irrepressible rage, and perpetual eye rolling at the utter stupidity contaminating your screen are just not worth it to try and get someone to see things from your point of view. You gain little and lose your soul.
The Seventh Circle: Making Plans
You would think that the creation of the group chat would make organisation easier. Everyone gets a say in dates, locations, and times, all in the simple format of a few messages. Easy, right? Wrong. The group chat makes plan organisation into a cataclysmic mess of infernal despair. There is a chance that some may not make it out alive.
The Eighth Circle: Seen by Everyone.
It is a nightmare that most of us can hardly bear to think about. You send a message expecting everyone to marvel your brilliant sense of humour. But it’s been hours. Hours decaying in a virtual wasteland, waiting for one person to be your saviour. But then the dreaded, finalising message appears: ‘Seen by everyone’. Your existence is invalidated and you come to the harsh realisation that you are alone in this world.
The Final Circle: Chaos.
Chaos is when every single one of these circles comes together to create a horrific melting pot in which sanity is a long lost comfort.
Sometimes it’s just better to put the group chat on mute and avoid the suffering altogether. It only serves as a cruel reminder that humanity is a chaotic species that is only capable of destroying any form of beauty.
Photo from here.