Chang has left the group

We sim­ply got less dis­cern­ing, writes and all so­cial-me­dia eti­quette went out the win­dow

CityPress - - Voices - Dion Chang voices@city­

It’s that time of the year: things to do, places to go and par­ties to plan, and that in­evitably means that, some­where along the line, you will be added to yet an­other group mes­sage. Group mes­sag­ing can be ei­ther a god­send or your worst com­mu­ni­ca­tion night­mare and, at this stage of the year, no one has time for more night­mares (we’ve had our fair share this year).

In­stant mes­sag­ing plat­forms have mush­roomed in the past few years and, if you own a smart­phone, you’ll al­ready have had to be­come adept at jug­gling more than one mes­sag­ing ser­vice. First there was just SMS (the good old days?), but now, if it’s not Face­book Mes­sen­ger, it’s WeChat, Google Hang­outs, Kik, Snapchat or, in­evitably, What­sApp.

Most peo­ple use What­sApp and, un­for­tu­nately, most What­sApp users have also dis­cov­ered the joys of group mes­sag­ing. A year ago, it was still quite novel to be part of one of th­ese group chats. It made sense. It was prac­ti­cal, quicker than email, in­for­ma­tive and gen­er­ally re­stricted to a few rare, sem­i­nal events. But that didn’t last long.

It soon pro­gressed from pri­vate groups to pub­lic ones – your neigh­bour­hood block­watch, your church group, a child’s birth­day party. From there, we sim­ply got less dis­cern­ing and started group chats for al­most ev­ery­thing and, with that, all so­cial-me­dia eti­quette went out the win­dow: not that every­one had quite grasped that there are un­spo­ken rules of cy­ber­chat­ting.

Ask any­one about What­sApp group mes­sages and (a) every­one has more than one group con­ver­sa­tion ac­tive on their phones and (b) every­one has their own itch to scratch about one of their groups.

Neigh­bour­hood block­watch groups seem to pro­voke the most re­ac­tions. It re­ally is a good idea to con­nect with your neigh­bours, es­pe­cially in sub­urbs with high walls, or sim­ply in an era where we don’t con­nect as much with peo­ple we live in prox­im­ity to. But there is a fine line be­tween watch­ing your neigh­bours’ back, and want­ing to know ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in the hood. Neigh­bour­hood What­sApp groups have be­come the cy­ber equiv­a­lent of sur­rep­ti­tiously peek­ing through the cur­tains to see what your neigh­bours are up to. Help­ful in­for­ma­tion can slide quickly into the cy­ber equiv­a­lent of “across the fence” con­ver­sa­tions.

In real life, there’s no guar­an­tee that you will get on with your neigh­bours, so why do we think that a What­sApp neigh­bour­hood group mes­sage is any dif­fer­ent?

Twit­ter has taught us that typ­ing a cou­ple of sen­tences from the safety of your phone can have dis­as­trous con­se­quences. What­sApp groups are prov­ing to be the same and, the larger the group, the greater the chance that some­one will cre­ate some drama, and there’s al­ways that can­tan­ker­ous neigh­bour who is ready to take the bait. How­ever, it can be hi­lar­i­ous when some­one mis­tak­enly sends some­thing deeply per­sonal, meant for an in­di­vid­ual, to the group. There’s noth­ing like a bit of Schaden­freude to ease the ir­ri­ta­tion of group mes­sag­ing.

A lone, pro­longed and ir­rel­e­vant con­ver­sa­tion be­tween two mem­bers of a group seems to be the one thing that drives the rest of the group bal­lis­tic, which brings me to a few ba­sic rules of group mes­sag­ing, es­pe­cially for the hol­i­day sea­son.

Never have a satel­lite con­ver­sa­tion with just a part of the group or an­other in­di­vid­ual. That’s the equiv­a­lent of hit­ting “re­ply all” on email at the of­fice. And it’s just as ir­ri­tat­ing.

Don’t ran­domly cre­ate a group that is not of com­mon in­ter­est, and then add peo­ple (you think) will have an in­ter­est in the event. That’s re­ally an­noy­ing and peo­ple will exit your group like they’re flee­ing the plague. You will feel like a leper.

How­ever, ex­it­ing a group that is rel­e­vant to you is al­ways tricky. Most of us have a grave­yard of What­sApp group mes­sages that we feel obliged to keep. If you have to stay in a group long term – like a neigh­bour­hood group – keep your dis­tance and san­ity by sim­ply mut­ing the con­ver­sa­tion and be­com­ing a voyeur.

Un­less it’s an emer­gency, don’t start broad­cast­ing ran­dom thoughts and sug­ges­tions to your group at odd hours, and es­pe­cially not af­ter a few glasses of wine. A What­sApp group is not your per­sonal dic­ta­phone, and peo­ple have lives and their own sched­ules.

Just as you shouldn’t text and drive, you shouldn’t drink and text. That’s when you post mus­ings you shouldn’t, or mis­tak­enly send a sext mes­sage to your church group. #awk­ward

If you re­ally have to exit a group, the cor­rect eti­quette (ap­par­ently) is to ask the ad­min­is­tra­tor – who added you in the first place – to re­move you, rather than leav­ing abruptly. I don’t know about you, but an ap­proach­ing new year seems to be a good time to clear out all dor­mant and/or vac­u­ous group chats. It’s been an ex­haust­ing year. My Fomo in­di­ca­tor is on “low”. So, no of­fence, but I’m ex­it­ing the group. Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more trends,

visit flux­ Join him on MetroFM to­mor­row morn­ing at 6.30am, when he dis­cusses th­ese trends on the First Av­enue show

TALK TO US What hi­lar­i­ous ex­changes have you had/seen on so­cial me­dia? Are you tired of group mes­sag­ing?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word GROUP and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

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