#1251: “My friends are mad because I don’t like talking in the dreaded Group Chat from WhatsApp Hell.”

Dear Captain,

I looked through the archives and I couldn’t see anything on this particular topic, but apologies if I missed something. It does seem connected to the Geek Social Fallacies though.

My question is about how to deal with awkwardness and anxieties over the dreaded Group Chat.

I have a group of friends who are not particularly close but they are friends I see a few times a year. I am pleased that they want to be my friend. We live in the same city. Over the past year, however, there have been some issues around differing expectations over the Group WhatsApp Chat.

Basically–there is a Group Chat. Actually now there are FOUR Group Chats. There are seven of us in it, all from this friendship group. The other six people use the chats constantly throughout the day to update each other on their movements and what they are doing. There used to be one chat but because of the high volume of chat traffic they split it into four: General Chat, TV (what people are watching), Logistics (about them meeting up), and Rants and Raves (where you can complain about stuff that happened to you). There is now a high volume of chat on all four groups.

The issue is that I can’t keep up with the chats. I am a remote worker and so I am in Slack groups for my work. Apart from that I don’t like chatting online in group chats, especially not with people who live in the same city as me, as I prefer to catch up in person and have an offline chat with them even if it is not frequent. I find that more social. The expectations of this group around the chats are very high. They literally update it with their movements, like “I’m having a coffee now” or “Just popped out for some milk”, or “omg I sat next to a smelly person on the bus just now, eww” and “just cooked some sausages”, this goes on all day. They post photos of these activities too and if they go on vacation, the chat gets filled with many, many vacation photos and videos that they get upset if I don’t look at or watch and then comment on. The TV and Rants chats are also very busy where they say “Just put on the TV, surfing the channels now” or go into more details ranting about the smelly person on the bus and so on. Basically they are narrating their lives in the chats, I don’t enjoy doing that and I don’t like reading it either…does that make me antisocial?

However the other six Chatters are upset that I do not participate in the chats. One guy literally told me that he did not understand what I did all day (I’m working..also why does he care??). We recently all met up in person and when they complained that I do not talk on the chats I tried to explain that I prefer to catch up in person with people rather than say everything online since then when we meet we have nothing to say because we already typed it… online… And they were offended by this, they seemed to take it as a personal rejection. It isn’t! I like catching up with them over a coffee or beer and finding out what’s new, it’s nicer in person. During the meetup they literally all sat on their phones chatting about the meetup on the group chat even though they were all there, apart from one person. They took photos of each other and posted them to the chat… When I asked them what they had been up to recently, they said that “if I had read the chat, I would know…”

I don’t get it.

I have muted the chats because otherwise my phone was pinging every couple of minutes. At the end of the day when I look at the chats there are a few hundred messages that I didn’t read. I feel overwhelmed just looking at it so I don’t read them usually and if I do all I learn is that someone went out for milk and there was no semi skimmed in the store. After the MeetUp where they suggested that they were offended and hurt that I didn’t talk on the chat I tried to join in by saying hi in the chat and asking what people were up to, but they were upset with me there, saying “wow nice of you to drop in”. So I gave up. I’m not ignoring them or shunning them, I just don’t want to type on my phone all day about what I am doing…

What can I tell them? I don’t want to offend anyone, and if I quit the chats they will not tell me when they are meeting up, so I will not see them again. I am an introvert who however enjoys group interactions (as long as I can be alone afterwards to decompress) so it’s not that. I just don’t get this group chat thing. Any ideas for how to tell them nicely without losing friends?

Whats Up With WhatsApp

Hello there!

Friend groups can become cultures unto themselves, and the culture of this one is to be constantly connected in a low-intensity way with social media. It’s not right or wrong – your “Ugh, too much!” is their “This is my little daily anchor for feeling less lonely in the world” and both reactions are just as honest and just as true. I think the less we make value judgments or appeal to “Manners!” and the more we cast this as a difference in style and/or compatibility, the more helpful I can be. One form of communication isn’t necessarily more genuine or deeper than any other, so what we’re dealing with is 1) their strong preference vs. yours 2) whether there’s a way to make these preferences more compatible 3) whether the affection between you is strong enough to make it worth the effort to try.

Example time! Imagine you’re out in a restaurant at breakfast time, and you see a family on vacation, and everyone is on their screens during the meal. It’s easy to think “Such disconnection, why can’t they just talk to each other like people used to do?” but I look at it and think, hey, look, they are all reading and nobody is yelling at anybody, how relaxing, I wish I’d been able to read at the table sometimes when I was a kid. We’re only seeing one snapshot, not the whole of this family’s communications with each other, maybe mealtime screen-time is a vacation-only treat, maybe their family’s first language is “judgmental screaming” and “quiet disconnection” is a serious upgrade, not all faaaaaaamily mealtime conversation is good or desirable or automatically more polite.

A second example: Recently I got to hang out with a friend I’d seen in person maybe once in probably 20 years. We went to school together in the 1990s, worked at two of the same places, lived a few doors down from each other in the same apartment building, had “Family Dinner” every Sunday night, met each other’s families, and it’s not an exaggeration to say we we talked close to every day between 1997 and 2000. Then I moved away and I didn’t see him again until last week. If you need proof of true friendship, he once moved most of my belongings into an un-air-conditioned 4th floor walkup on a 100 degree day. But what made our friendship work was hugely, hugely based on proximity: “You are a person I like to do a lot of nothing with, and hey look, you’re right here, let’s hang out!” When it was easy to hang out, we did, all the time. When it was hard due to geography, we didn’t. It doesn’t mean we’re not friends, it just means that friendship fits into a particular shape, and “pen pal” isn’t that shape. That dynamic might not work for everyone (or even anyone) else, and that’s okay. The WhatsApp dynamic might be a way these folks maintain that feeling of proximity, whereas the LW prefers physical proximity, and they live in the same town so why not go with that? How does proximity affect our friendships is a useful question, I think, for lots of Geek Social Fallacies-adjacent and “Why am I friends with this person again?” questions in addition to today’s post.

Another possibly more relevant example: My experience with this “how can you not know when we share everything with each other online?” dynamic dates back to the days of LiveJournal, where I had a post go ridiculously viral and I ended up putting something in my profile to the tune of “‘I like ______’ and ‘I want to read ______’s every waking thought (and show them all of mine)’ are not the same thing at all” and then I pruned my friends’ list to people I was actually actively reading and engaging with and unfriended/refused literally everyone else. Some people I knew locally found this really confusing and painful to parse, like, “If you like me, why don’t you like me all the time, in every possible medium, as much as possible?” and the answer was (and still is) “I don’t knowwwwwwwwwwwwww, but I know that it’s true of me. I read as way more extroverted than I actually am, I have a bigger ‘friendliness’ footprint than I have attention units and that’s just how it is.” 

Previously I’d tried using filters for both what I posted and what I read, since there were people I liked in meatspace but didn’t want to interact with much online (and you better believe there was both a vice and a versa with that one), and there were people all over the world I made forever-kindred-spirit-friendships with just ’cause we read each other’s internet diaries, and lots and lots and lots of in-between.

Sadly, the thing your friends identify as a problem was actually a problem when it came to people I knew both online and locally in Chicago: By using filters and limiting my reading, I wasn’t keeping up with people’s lives in the way they assumed I was, and that definitely had repercussions in my local social scene. It really only takes saying “You must be so excited about the baaaaaaaaaaaby!” (because that was a detail I sort of remembered about a nice-but-not-necessarily-close-person in the brunch circle) once and hearing Don’t you fucking read?” hissed by someone else into the horrified, echoing silence after the sadly-not-pregnant-anymore person fled the restaurant weeping, to learn some important lessons:

  1. Pregnant people will tell you if there is anything new to tell, if they don’t mention it, STFU, nope, shut up, always be shutting up.
  2. I, Jennifer, should not try to half-ass stuff out of social obligation that I cannot keep up with from the heart, it will only end in tears and 17+ years of shame-echoes.
  3. If this online-offline hybrid social life we’ve made has any hope of working, I need to know my limits and stay inside them.

Now we have the excuse of both privacy filters and the algorithms* straight-up not showing us certain people’s stuff when we do want to follow their lives, but the problem remains the same: With so many apps and points of contact to share and absorb a constant stream of everybody’s thoughts and doings, how do we keep up with what’s actually important? And where/how do we set the expectations? And how do we account for the fact that what goes on social media is necessarily an edited & curated version of people’s life events, so the most important stuff might not be visible? Everybody is navigating this a little bit differently and there is no one right way.

(*I’ve lost count of what example we’re on but in the last year I’ve completely missed at least one friend’s divorce and another’s life-threatening accident – and these are people I avidly follow on social media but don’t see face to face often or talk on the phone with. If not for in-person catch-ups and asking questions, I would literally never have known what was going on. Information does not equal knowledge part the millionth.)

As a person who does a lot of her living inside the internet, it’s helped me to assume that possibly nobody knows anything about me until I actually tell specifically them what’s going on. I might Tweet or blog here about a thing, but that doesn’t mean my friends who aren’t Extremely Online saw it or know about it or care about it, so if I want them to know I tell them. If that means repeating myself, oh well, they’ll interrupt me and it will be fine. If I haven’t seen you in a while, I will ask you questions in that vein, like, “You’ve probably told Facebook or Twitter all about what’s new lately but I miss a lot of things, would you mind giving me the friend-recap, I’d love to hear all about everything!?!”

Again, not everyone is me or thinks like me or needs what I need, so I’m not saying that this should be the standard for others, it’s not “what you should do” it’s “what I am actually doing, maybe that will help somebody?” For me, social media interactions are real interactions, internet friends are real friends, but not everyone switches between modes of communication with the same speed and enthusiasm as me, so I am happier in face-to-face interactions when I assume nothing and default to asking (and telling). So that might be a script for you – “I’m sure you’ve posted all this in the group chat, but please tell me again! I want to know! Thank you!” 

All this to say, I can see why your friends are like “But I put literally everything about me in the chats, if you really wanted to know what’s going on with me you would know and you are like “Ok but there were 12,000 updates about breakfast cereal and which episode of Inspector Lewis you’re watching, so forgive me if your life-changing promotion was a blip, if you really wanted me to know you’d tell me when I asked you what’s new and not lecture me about keeping up with the chats when I’ve already told you that I can’t.”

[To harken back to Ye Olden Times On The Internets and show you how little has changed: I have been u! “Hello Granddaughter, I forward jokes, un-fact-checked stories, MP3s of songs it takes four hours to download, and crackpot racism from the Rancid Old Man Internet to everyone I know and all our members of Congress to keep in touch Fwd: fwd: FWD: fwd:” vs. “Okay Grampa, but look, unless you’re emailing specifically me to tell me something that you wrote, I might not write back.” vs. “Well then I guess I just won’t BOTHER you anymore.” vs. “I mean, you can always call me but actually if you don’t forward random emails anymore that would be great, thanks!” vs. “Fwd:Fwd:FWD:Fwd: How DEMOCRATS are like VioLEnt TerrORist ABortioN GANGS the REAl story The MEDIA won’t TELL you FWD:FWD:FWD:fwd:>>>>>>>>>>fwd…. Love, Grampa Oscar”].

It’s okay to have different preferences. And I make fun, but being mutually dismissive of each other’s preferred communication styles will not help people who like each other actually hang out and remain friends. We can all say WTF? at the guy saying ‘he doesn’t understand what you do all day’ (WORKING AND NOT DOCUMENTING THE OL’ MORNING POTTY BREAK ON THE OL’ WHATSAPP, THAT’S WHAT, KEVIN, MAYBE TRY IT?), but you saying “Ugh, I don’t really get it” or calling their affectionate way of being with each other “from hell” won’t fix it either. Trading “If you really wanted to ______, you would DO _______” never goes anywhere good. So how do we break this impasse?

I don’t think you are going to be able to change the overall culture of the group, so let’s talk about what you can do to preserve these friendships.

One option is to continue as you are. Pop into the chats only when you feel like it, focus on the “Logistics” channel to see if there are any hangouts coming up, before you hang out in person maybe do a quick skim of the past day or two’s updates so you can ask topical questions. You will miss some things that are going on with these people and it’s okay to be honest about that – “I like you so much but I will never, ever be able to stay on top of the chats, so can I get a quick recap?” This is a way to recognize that you are dealing with a culture that isn’t your natural medium and you are doing your best to meet them where they are. If they can’t accept that? Then maybe they are incompatible with you and that’s sad but it’s good information to have. As you meet and befriend new people, you can prioritize closer ties with people who share the kind of communication style that makes you most happy and comfortable. For best results, cast it as your own preference, like “I know it makes me an outlier, but the group chat is just really not my thing, however, YOU are my thing, so, hang out on Friday?” 

I think you’ve been very clear that you find the chats overwhelming and prefer to catch up in person, and there’s nothing stopping you from periodically calling or meeting up with these folks one on one or arranging your own outings, right? So another option is to uninstall WhatsApp from your phone, call or email or text or use whatever other form of communication you have to get in touch with one person in the group – your favorite person, the friendliest person – and say, “Hey friend, I’ve tried but I can’t keep up with the Group Chats and I don’t want to argue about them ever again. I like you so much, I like everyone in the group so much, and I hope you’ll let me know when you all get together next so we can catch up face to face, but if there’s something you want me to know about or come to for sure, here’s my #.” 

If you do this will there be shock, surprise, hurt feelings? Will they talk about you behind your back? Will the friendships drift? Yes. 100%. But nothing will drift that isn’t already drifting. What you are doing is removing the fiction that you are ever going to participate in these chats again or keep up with every coffee break or bus ride with these people.

Which brings me to Part 2:

Whether you stay casually engaged with the chats or decide to go cold turkey, if you want to maintain these friendships, you’ll need to get in touch with folks – individually and as a group – and invite them to do things with you. You’re opting out of the way they do things and you’re the one who wants a change, therefore the initial work falls to you.

Whenever there is a group dynamic that’s iffy, I really encourage people to stop engaging with The Whole Group as a monolith and start engaging with people in ones and twos.  Sometimes we outgrow friendships, sometimes we outgrow friend groups, but sometimes there are relationships worth preserving even if the idea of the group fades, and sometimes there is necessary pruning to be done.

Inviting people out means taking on some work that The Group used to handle for you on its own, but it also means letting your own pleasure and enjoyment guide you and learning more about how you like to do friendship. If you host events like, “dinner and movies at my place, and hey, this is just my quirk, but let’s put our phones away for a couple of hours,” who shows up, who makes you feel good, who gives you what you need, who is willing to try it your way some of the time? Once you start initiating plans suit you, you can see who likes you enough to meet you halfway, and from there you can see what can be saved and what can be built.

Before people comment I want to reiterate: If a social media platform or way of staying in touch with people makes you feel dread, don’t do it. DON’T USE IT. Delete it. Nobody is making you, so…don’t? Use the tools that you enjoy using, and make case-by-case exceptions when affection and connection truly compel you, like, “okay, the only way to interact with this person I REALLY want to interact with is phone talking so for that one person I am a grudging phone talker, everyone else is text only.” Our preferences are just that, preferences, and we’re all making compromises all the time. “I prefer in-person hangouts, texts are just impersonal!” vs. “Well I’m disabled so good fucking luck with that” IS A THING, it might be an insurmountable thing for two particular people, but it is a real thing and pretending that there is only one best way to interact is doomed. The Letter Writer’s friend group is doing a thing they enjoy that works for them. It doesn’t work for the Letter Writer. That’s okay, good news is we can find that we are incompatible with other people without anyone being a jerk, this ain’t Reddit, this site doesn’t exist to archive rants or tabulate votes that apportion blame correctly. Cool? Cool.

What I do want to hear from readers about: When you & somebody you care about have vastly different preferences about how to communicate, what works to keep you connected? And how did you figure it out?

 

 

 

106 comments
  1. As someone who is in, and enjoys!, a “getting a cup of coffee omg” group chat with friends, I appreciate so much the even-handedness of this answer. ❤

    I like the suggestion of one-on-one meetups and movie nights. Another possibility: game night? board games? D&D? You get to see each other and chat, but it's often understood that you do not live-tweet during game time because it's a distraction from something that takes attention.

    • monologue said:

      I’ve been in group chats like that before as well and it can be a great emotional support for me, esp when I don’t have enough positive everyday social interactions outside of the chat. One thing I think group chat types can do to help with dynamics like the LW’s is understand that not everyone is gonna be super active in the chat and to just say, “Hi, how are you?” when the lower activity people do show up. It’s not easy to go back and read 100s of messages when you’ve been away from the chat, so losing the expectation of people catching up can be great to bridge these gaps in styles.

      • Ixolite said:

        Great point! I’m that infrequent participant in many group chats I so, so appreciate it when people do that. “Hi how are you” and “We were talking about X, what’s your take” are so great. The groups I stay in and enjoy havr people that understood that I don’t have the bandwidth to be in one long eternal conversation with half a dozen individuals; the groups I left were the ones that served me passive-aggression when I did show up, making me afraid to participate unless I had read the entire conversation archive.

  2. Susan said:

    I have also asked about someone’s baby that they had (unbeknownst to me) lost, and we were sitting at the same table at a wedding so neither of us could really escape, and I will never stop feeling awful about it.

  3. Shay said:

    I love the idea of “attention units.” Such a good way to put it. I used to be the kind of person who wanted to maintain connection with as many people as possible, and if that number goes down it caused a lot of bad feelings for me, but lately I am realizing that when I put my ~attention units~ into a handful of people instead of spreading them out, my relationships are actually more fulfilling as a result. It’s nice to have a succinct way to describe that. 🙂

    My partner and I actually do have very different communication preferences. I am very much a “let’s hang out every week or two and then regularly message each other in between” kind of person, and they are a “I literally can’t focus on screen conversations and it makes my depression worse to try to tether myself to this little glowing box, so let’s prioritize in person and then maybe some phone calls.” It’s been really tricky, and honestly I don’t think our relationship would have survived this if I hadn’t morphed into someone who depended less on internet-based conversation than I used to. It was very easy to take it personally at first and feel like lacking this regular text communication was the same thing as lacking a fulfilling relationship, but as I adjusted I started to look forward to our regular calls and trips (we’re a long-distance couple) more and more. And what they did that helped me was work on contributing to a sense of routine around our calls (so I know I can look forward to talking once or twice a day and giving them all my updates then), and being very proactive and repetitive about saying “look I love you very much but I’m never going to be a regular texter” until it stuck with me.

  4. I have one of these communication styles, and couldn’t possibly begin to understand the other, so I’m amazed and impressed that you navigated that gap and laid it out so clearly. Thank you.

    TRiG.

  5. Iforgot said:

    My mom is a phone talker. I’m generally not, but don’t mind talking on the phone with certain people. She is not one of those people for me – namely because her phone-talking consists of steam of consciousness with barely a pause for a breath between paragraphs.

    I send her texts throughout the week so she feels like she’s in touch with me and can tell herself a story about how we talk all the time. She tells me whatever she wants over text and I can skim it if I want, and there’s less room for “I woke up and had a mild headache, and thought maybe it’s because I’m dehydrated, but I had a lot of water yesterday, and again this morning, so that was probably not the reason, so I decided to go to the grocery store because I couldn’t find any Tylenol and also I was running low on bread, you know the kind they sell at [grocery chain] because [other grocery chain] stopped selling it, ugh, it’s so annoying because [grocery chain] is so far away whereas [other grocery chain] is right on my way home. So anyway, I went to [grocery chain] and it was hard to find a cart! I’ve never seen it so crowded on a weekday morning. I had to drive around and park far away from the entrance, but I guess it did help me get extra steps in, do you know I walked 5 miles yesterday! I’m so proud of myself. Was it yesterday? Maybe it was two days ago. No, it was definitely yesterday. Hold on let me check my step counter. Oh look, it actually was two days ago. That reminds me, I need to call my neighbor, she wanted to start walking more and I told her I would walk with her, have you met her? Her daughter just went to college….” I’m clenching my jaw just typing this.

    Anyway. She’s mostly harmless but it’s hard to listen to, and doesn’t listen to gentle asks to not do this or to tell me just one story at a time. If I tell her I want to talk back and forth where I tell her something about me too, she says “ok talk” and I say whatever…she says what that reminds her of that happened to her and she’s off to the races again.

    So text. She can’t type all that. And even if she discovers talk-to-text, I can still choose when I read it and how much of it I read.

    • Nanani said:

      Ah, the phone talker who doesn’t talk TO you but AT you.
      Isn’t it fun to be the receptacle of thoughts with no care for your actual responses?
      Why can’t such people just talk to a pet or a vlog?
      It is very hard to care what they’re saying when they clearly don’t care whether you listen.
      The inherent refusal to value your time and attention is frankly vile.

      (my mom also does this in person and boy it feels great)
      (It does not, in fact, feel great)

      • Ixolite said:

        Oof yeah my mom does that too. Sometimes after I ask her several times if I can have a little quiet now. Sometimes after I tell her “I will now read this book” and proceed to physically turn away. Feels downright terrible, it does.

        The only thing that helps me cope is realizing that she does this because she’s so, so used to being ignored (by my dad, and by her family in a context where her mom was basically alone to raise 8 kids) that she just doesn’t get the difference between someone paying attention to her and someone ignoring her. It’s no excuse, it still sucks and I really wished she was more socially aware, but when I’m trapped with her in a car for hours with no escape, remembering this helps me not to snap.

        • This dynamic is stressful.

          It’s something I’m sympathetic to, since, in my experience, people who talk in a stream of consciousness style tend to have problems with emotional or attentional dysregulation, or some non-neurotypicality that affects how they perceive social cues (i.e. conversation patterns and pace, someone else’s awkward silence).

          It does seem to be genuinely, deeply challenging for some people to halt the train of thought and re-orient to the present, to focus on a two-way conversation.

          That said, though, many people who are non-neurotypical in this way learn strategies to improve their conversational skills. Things like taking notes even during informal conversations, redirecting energy with something physical rather than verbal, or practicing conversational styles with a coach or counselor.

          What’s frustrating is, if someone doesn’t seem to care enough to make an effort to focus better, what does that say about their priorities? If they don’t ask questions, it’s because they genuinely don’t want to know anything about me– my opinions, what’s going on with me, etc.

          I genuinely don’t know how to deal with this.

          • No Names Here said:

            I have a few people in my life like this and I started treating them the same way: volunteering details of my life unasked, talking in a stream of consciousness sort of way at times so I could get a few words in edge-wise. It doesn’t come naturally to me in the slightest but I have found that it works well to restore the balance of conversation. The people in my life do want to hear about this stuff; they just don’t know to ask, and part of the endless talking on their end is their way of carrying the conversation.

          • Twitchy said:

            I’ve only ever had success with ending these relationships. My perspective is that I’m not a public service that needs to be equally available to everyone. I’m a person with feelings, and I get to say no to relationships with people who either don’t care about my feelings or act like they don’t care about my feelings.

          • Nanani said:

            In my experience (see above), this has nothing to do with neurotypicality and everything to do with daughters being made to listen and not be listened to.

            I can tell because mom is perfectly capable of listening to people who aren’t my sister and I, and carries on a non-one-sided, non-stream-conciousness-dump conversation with other people all the time right in front of us.

            Sometimes they just don’t care, when it comes to you, specifically, and it sucks.

          • @Nanani – (ran out of nesting) I think your experience is somewhat unique because you’ve been able to observe that your mom doesn’t talk to other people this way. And that’s absolutely hurtful. I completely agree; that’s not something to just put up with.

            In my experience, that’s not the norm. Two of my closest friends are non-neurotypical (ADHD and ASD), and it’s very hard for them to switch to a “normal” conversation style. It often got them in trouble at school and work. One of these friends used to start conversations by saying something like, “feel free to jump in and interrupt me,” which…that was ok, but it was still frustrating. And it didn’t solve the issue of their struggle tracking and remembering what I (or their teacher, or their boss) was saying.

            So, for them, it really wasn’t a matter of being disrespectful or “vile,” but simply a lack of skill that is much more intuitive for neurotypical people.

            That said, they were highly motivated to rein it in and work on it in counseling and start using a notebook, etc. One moreso than the other. I didn’t do anything to change them really, they just changed on their own because they were motivated to practice.

            Just throwing it out there because I think a lot of non-neurotypical people (self-included) could use more compassion and benefit of the doubt in mainstream spaces. I personally don’t struggle conversationally, but I have other challenges. Some are things I’m working on, some are things I’ve accepted about myself that may be dealbreakers for others.

            I just would hate to break a “deal” with someone because I interpreted a behavior as personal disrespect or an insult, at least if I enjoyed that person’s company otherwise, when really their unusual behavior is just part of their personal challenge.

          • CMart said:

            @No Names Here -I’ve done the same thing, taking the steamroll-talker’s cues and doing the same in return and it’s been successful for me in a couple distinct ways.

            For one of my best friends, it truly was a “they do want to hear about me, they just don’t know how to ask/they get nervous at conversational pauses and just barrel ahead before I could take a breath to respond” kind of thing. So when I picked up the conversational ball and ran with it our time spent together got a lot more satisfying for both of us. We were both getting to share about our lives, and we were both being listened to.

            For my mom, it really is more of a “she just wants to talk and doesn’t care to listen” kind of thing, and I consider it a success that I was able to suss this out and make my own internal calculations accordingly. She will politely stop talking if I manage to begin a monologue, but then go back to talking AT me like Nanani’s mother does to them. I experimented for a few visits with just jumping in unprompted to let her know what was up with me, only to have her barely acknowledge it before managing to connect it to a different thing she wanted to talk about (I’m still very impressed with how she got from “CMart’s daughter [her first grandchild] had to spend a day in the hospital getting scans of her skull” to “my college buddy can’t decide which RV he wants to buy despite me doing 3 days of research for him”). Unlike my mom, I assume, it does not make me feel good to essentially be speaking to a houseplant – I want actual interaction, sharing of thoughts and emotions. It brought clarity to me: I like feeling like a “good daughter” and it makes me happy to have my mom feel loved and listened to, and so I smile politely as she speaks nonstop at me and shoot off brief replies to the long e-mails she sends. I do not like feeling ignored and dismissed, which is how it feels when I tell her things and she blows past them like I’d never spoken, and so I’ve stopped sharing unless asked. Do I wish it was different? You bet. But I’m not going to get a different mom, and it’s been very freeing to be able to understand and reframe our dynamic so that I wasn’t continuing to set myself up for rejection and sadness.

          • goddessoftransitory said:

            My mom was very ill at the beginning of the year, and I knew things were serious when I called her and she didn’t talk my ear off. When she said “Honey I’m just too tired to talk” my sister had to talk me down from booking plane tickets that day. (She’s recovering now, thank goodness.)

      • Andrea said:

        Well, because a cat or a vlog is not human contact. There’s speaking and there’s being heard.

        But of course if that does not work for you, then don’t do it or do it less or find a way to make it less painful. I have a beloved relative who just talks on and on (I think it’s nervousness). So do something while I’m listening, like folding laundry. Win win!

        • Nanani said:

          Oh, I have my strategies. The one that works best is arranging for time together to revolve around an activity, like watching a sport or doing a thing. Lots of natural ways to break off the stream of conciousness that way.

          That doesn’t make it any less obnoxious or hurtful, but it does let me have a somewhat sane relationship with my mom.

          And of course a pet or camera isn’t being heard but that’s the whole point.
          Dumping stream of conciousness at me isn’t a conversation, *I* am not being heard, and that is a problem.
          The part about not having your part of the conversation exist, at all, is massively unequal.

          Sometimes I mention this and people hear “mom doesn’t listen” as “mom doesn’t take up my suggestions” or something like that.
          No, when I say my mom talks at me and doesn’t listen to my replies, I mean she TALKS AT ME CONSTANTLY and continues to do so regardless of what comes out of my mouth.
          Like the silent treatment but with day to day minutiae instead of the actual silence.

          To bring it back to the topic, the group chat members expect LW to read hundreds of messages of day to day stuff and don’t seem to care that much about LWs life in return, unless it comes in that specific format. Which doesn’t work for LW.
          Lucky for them it doesn’t sound like the group chat is their mom.

          • Dana Lynne said:

            I have a very dear relative that does this to me, too…. when we talk on the phone it’s just a stream. I have learned, however, over the years that with them it’s a symptom of their anxiety and their social awkwardness with me specifically. For some reason I will never fully understand, they fear my reactions and wander around in a fog of not wanting to say the wrong thing when they are with me and that results in the running off at the mouth. There’s nothing I can do about it and I choose not to cut off the relationship. But it’s more sad than annoying. It’s gotten worse and worse through the years.

            Basically I have to remember to reassure and praise this person (when I get a word in edgewise) about 200 percent more than the average person would expect in a relationship.

    • isabeausuro said:

      ::squints:: Do we have the same mom?

      • A Person said:

        Came to leave this same comment

      • Pimi said:

        Samesies. Bonus points if she actually physically smacks you to get you to stop talking on the rare occasion your dad actually asks about important life choices, so she can monologue at both of you about the titles of articles on WebMD and how they make her feel.

        Extra bonus points if she is known as an attentive listener in her professional field. It’s not that she *can’t* listen, it’s just that you’re not worth her listening to! Or allowing anyone else to listen to you!

    • Your mom sounds like my grandma. Listening to her 25-minute stream-of-consciousness recounting of her day-to-day, judging her grandchildren for choices they’ve made, and the occasional hugely problematic comment thrown in just to kick it up a notch makes me tired in a way that I will never be able to explain to her without hurting her feelings. It’s why I don’t call her, but again, there’s no way to explain that to her without making her sad.

  6. Jane said:

    Oof, this is timely! I have recently joined a friend group filled with delightful and wonderful people, and one of those delightful and wonderful people said up front, “I only do proximity friendships. There will be no texts or chatting.” That super does not work for me, so it has been an ongoing process of resetting expectations and emotionally disengaging from this person. Beyond that, this friend group grew up around the fact that we all live/worked in service jobs in the same tiny neighborhood, so there was a lot of low-stakes hangout time possible by sheer dint of “I’ll stop by the coffee shop later, shall I?” or “I’ll stop in and buy some cheese on Friday night.” Now we’re having to schedule more things and seeing each other less often, and I’m sort of scrambling around for what to replace that low-stakes interaction with.

    I feel like the closest I’ve come to having a successful renegotiation of friendship communication styles was when I moved away permanently from my home state, and my closest childhood friend and I agreed to have a once-weekly phone call (sometimes once every two or three weeks, depending on busy-ness on both our parts.) Before then we were chatting on every possible social media and meeting in person, and while I love chatting and sharing photos with people, something about the way this particular friend and I use social media pings off each other’s depression/anxiety sensors and made that less fun and more . . painful.

  7. For me, what works is contacting people individually.

    Group chats grind my gears. So, while I text all day with one friend, I have phone conversations with two others.

    I post on a private news server with another group of friends. For us, newsgroups are a good middle road between all talk all the time and email. I had a hard time for a while finding a useful phone app but newstap works well.

  8. Clover said:

    “I read as way more extroverted than I actually am, I have a bigger ‘friendliness’ footprint than I have attention units” is possibly the best description of me I have ever come across.

    • I (an 100% introvert, I had an official test) have noticed that people like you and the Captain, who seem more extroverted than you are, also often have a way with words, are more expressive than the average person, and that makes an impression. It makes your interactions special, and even though it’s second nature for you, to other people it feels like you’re making extra effort which reads as extra friendly. I’ve noticed this as I’m observing from behind a ficus where I’m hiding so I don’t have to talk to any people.

  9. Nanani said:

    My first thought is LWs friends want a Discord server, not multiple what’s app chats.
    This sort of splitting and specializing is what Discord does best, imo.
    But they didn’t write in, LW did, and changing the medium won’t solve anything.

    Second, people who demand performative attention, which “you gotta read the chat constantly” strikes me as being, are revealing an incompatibility.
    It’s performative for LW because constant status updates aren’t a natural way for them to communicate.
    If it was a compatible thing that LW naturally wanted to do, there would be no need to demand performance of it, so yeah.
    It’s not inherently bad, but it’s a demand on LWs time and energy that they are not in fact obligated to go through with. Especially not constantly.

    LW, it’s ok to mute your group chats. Mute all the group chats, I’m pretty sure the majority of people do.
    Nobody is available 24/7.

    The Captain’s advice about assuming no one knows anything from posts unless/until you tell them directly definitely strikes a chord.

    I don’t know if this is relevant to LW, but perhaps there is a touch of dismissiveness underlying the dynamic in which the friends in the group won’t do the work of telling LW things? Important things about THEM? when LW is around? but turn around and expect LW to do the work of sifting through hundreds of fluff messages a day and identifying the bits of scattered gold dust therein.
    Imbalance can sour a friendship FAST. Might be something to brace for.

    I’ve had friends declare that I was doing social media wrong and those friendships faded because no amount of forcing myself to do social media their way solved the problem, it just added resentment.
    Sorry that’s not very hopeful.
    Good luck LW.

    • MsSolo said:

      I have had so many situations recently where I really want to rec Discord to people for group chats/fandom stuff/writing groups, but several of those people are resistant to recs when not explicitly requested (venters, not asking for advice people) so I’m trying to sit on my hands and not get involved. I figure if someone in one of those groups used Discord, they’d share the love, and if no one does, it might not be worth the groups’ time to learn how to set up a server when they’re already used to jamming the square peg into a round hole.

      (but dear god, is it perfect for this kind of heavy-traffic, topic-specific kind of scenario)

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      “the dynamic in which the friends in the group won’t do the work of telling LW things? Important things about THEM? when LW is around? but turn around and expect LW to do the work of sifting through hundreds of fluff messages a day and identifying the bits of scattered gold dust therein.”
      You have hit on the real issue in this relationship, I think.
      What I get from this dynamic is that the substance of the messages is less important to this group than the real time interaction. That is, your knowing in real time that “X got a new job” is more important than your knowing what the new job is and how X likes it and what X is doing at the new job.
      So the basis of the friendships is their all participating in every moment of each others’ lives, rather than meatspace common interests. It’s great that it works for this group, but if that’s not the way LW does friendships, it might not be the best place for LW.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Yes, exactly. And LW not being new with the news is not something these friends see as an opportunity to reconnect (“oh you didn’t see the thing about Jin’s new baby? Let me tell you….”) but as a refusal by LW to participate in their friend group. For them, being in group chat always is like inviting people to parties or having a regular Saturday game; if you don’t show up much, people will figure you can’t or won’t want to be friends with them.

    • Grumpy Meowth said:

      I’m confused how the people in the chat have time to post all day. On the bus, sure, transit can be a good time to be online. But are they all in school or out of the workforce? Or are their bosses writing to Ask A Manager about “my employee who never gets anything done because they are on WhatsApp all day”?

      I’d be annoyed and exhausted too. I don’t like chat because I type so slowly compared to speaking and I don’t like interruptions. It’s great for customer service instead of trying to understand a stranger on the phone, but not a replacement for seeing people I like.

      • A Silver Spork said:

        I don’t know what’s going on with those people, but in every job I’ve had (I’m a scientist, working mostly in and around pharma), there’s a pattern of “spend an hour frantically setting things up, sit around doing paperwork/analyzing the data/responding to the million and a half emails for six, spend an hour cleaning stuff up” most days. During the middle six hours of the day, I had a lot of flexibility to do non-work-related stuff. My coworkers would online shop, read, discuss politics for 3+ hours at a time (ARGH), brush up on their foreign language skills, browse the internet, plan their next home renovation… as long as you got your work done in a timely manner, weren’t breaking any laws or company policies, and were available to get back to the lab in case something blew up (not an exaggeration, things really did blow up sometimes), no one really cared. It really depends on what your job is.

        • CMart said:

          Yes, people’s lives and circumstances vary so widely I’d be really hesitant to be dismissive in a “pft, what kind of people have the time to be constantly connected all day” way.

          I used to be a bartender, so in general my daytime hours were spent not-working and could have been filled of texting with and responding to friends if I had wanted to. I’m currently a corporate office worker with very little oversight (who yes, is currently on CapAwk and Ask A Manager at my desk as we speak, ha!) and I ping-pong between “do a task, read a few comments, do a task, respond to my friend’s texts, do a couple tasks, send husband a meme, do a task, go to the bathroom and text a different friend” throughout the day. It’s fine, I promise, I continue to get raises and promotions and glowing reviews.

    • Amy said:

      Discord is what my friends use for our ‘group chat’! It’s excellent for this kind of thing. Also I love that it’s on my computer as well as my phone, that massively ups its usability for me.

      • WhatsApp can work on your computer too (see WhatsApp Web). Even better, perhaps, is Slack, designed as a work productivity tool, but also used by some hobbyist communities. (I don’t yet have experience of Discourse.)

        • Nanani said:

          I’m 99% sure Slack is just Discord with the gamer-oriented features reskinned for Business (TM).

        • Amy said:

          I’ll keep that in mind if we’re ever looking for something new, but Discord is actually working pretty great. I don’t have any complaints.

    • Hannah said:

      The imbalance thing is, sadly, real. I had some friends who I thought were lifelong friends, from junior high… well actually some I’d known since first grade but The Group came together in junior high and gelled, and continued on through high school, college (in different states) and early adulthood.

      And then social media happened and most of the group glommed onto facebook, while several of us didn’t. Including me. Instead of phone calls and emails and letters or texts… suddenly much of the important stuff ONLY was communicated on facebook. Sometimes just the ups and downs and day to day stuff. But shockingly, some really important stuff. Like one of the group’s father died, and no one called/emailed/texted to let me know … I live out of state, have no family left in our hometown and had absolutely no idea because … not on facebook. I would have booked a flight and been at the wake and funeral, but had no idea any of this happened until months later when a friend of a friend mentioned something.

      For I while I thought that I was doing something ‘wrong’ … “I’m not on Facebook if I wanted to STAY friends with my old friends I would be” but then it struck me… I call sometimes just to chat, and they seem happy to hear from me, and occasionally they call me… but they seem more connected with others in our friend group… how do they know so much about their lives? I send them notes and Christmas cards and texts, and often I say something like “hey, if you want to get in touch, or if you’re ever in my neck of the woods and want to grab a drink/coffee… my email is blab blah blah, my cell/text is blah blah blah, my work deets are blah blah blah” and “just so you know, I’m not on facebook” and…. no emails or texts or posts on my work blog. As far as I know, I haven’t committed any huge social faux pas with any of them (aside from missing someone’s father’s funeral.. BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW… hey friend group, could you POSSIBLY spread the WORD?!?… and when I found out I reached out immediately )

      But it definitely feels like all the *REAL* stuff gets communicated on facebook, and because I’m not on … I don’t get the messages about ‘gather here’ or ‘let’s talk about this now’ or ‘hey, so and so’s got this going on, let’s rally’ and through the grapevine, the vibe I get is that people feel like they’re transmitting and I’m not responding and have dropped them. But they’re NOT transmitting to ME. Or at least in a way that I even see, much less get a chance to respond to or not respond to. (and I’ve had the same real world address, email and cell # for 15+ years, so it’s not like I’m super sneaky changing my contact info constantly.. heck, I’ve got a lifetime forward on my college email address. I’ve not hard to find! But if I happen to be hanging out with someone who is on facebook and I say “hey, can you search for this or that person? ” I’ll see all the active communication between my old friends, and it’s clear they are in frequent contact. )

      And, sadly, at a certain point, I kind of gave up. I figured that if maintaining the connection was important enough to any one of them, they would have responded directly to one of my “hey, just so you know, I’m not on facebook… but you can reach me here blah blah blah” notes here and there. The effort threshold for them to add another channel to their “people from The Group from Jr/Sr High School” was enough to post on facebook but apparently not enough to add another means of communication. And the connection to me, personally, was not enough for them to notice I was missing from that group, or give me the benefit of the doubt that if I was missing, maybe it would be worth touching base with me through other means.

      I have no idea why it is. Other people in my life seem to enjoy keeping in touch with me by whatever means, act as though I’m an interesting, nice, worthwhile person to have in their lives. If I ran into any one of them in an airport I’d be pleased to see them and catch up. If I knew any one of them needed something from me, I’d be there. If any one of them lived in my county, or within an hour’s drive, I’d probably show up one morning with a coffee and say “what TF is up with you… why you no text me? Oh, and BTW, how ARE you?” But distance and time have worn down that impulse. I figure they’re not interested… so I’ve packed my interest away and chocked it up to … apparently, they aren’t that interested in staying in touch with me right now. And fill my life with other things.

  10. Quill said:

    Personally a group chat with more than about four becomes unmanageable super fast. So the only group chat I’m in that has survived years is only four people. They’re doing the right thing by splitting it into channels but there’s going to have to be a less active channel for things that are actually important.

    I’d go with telling them that you will be removing all the channels but logistics and that if they really need your input on something they can text or email you. But also try to start a recurring, in person event, that they can go to or not. Coffee, dinner, game night…

    Overall I think this group might actually become less textually clingy if they have a regular meetup too.

  11. Jay said:

    My bestie is a serious introvert with a job that requires a lot of face time and a kid who requires a lot of face time, too. Back in the day (which was before kids) we talked on the phone almost every day and had lunch together once a week. Then kids and texting arrived almost simultaneously and suddenly we hardly ever saw each other one-on-one and never spoke on the phone. Our entire relationship shifted to text. I HATED IT. I missed her, I hated typing out personal stuff on that itsy-bitsy keyboard, and it felt like she just didn’t like me anymore – especially since she would text me to tell me she was having lunch with someone else. Oof.

    I spent way too long fuming to myself and having occasional passive-aggressive outbursts (like, years) before I finally told her how I felt. She explained that the combo of kids and work left her utterly unable to have an actual conversation by the end of the day, and that she never even texted most of her friends but had made a real effort to stay in touch with me as best she could. I realized that our schedules were completely incompatible – she was only free for lunch on the days I was never free for lunch. Oh. I also discovered that I could use iMessages on my computer and type on a keyboard instead of poking at my phone, which makes it MUCH easier for me to engage in actual conversations over text. And I started telling her directly when something was going on in my life that made me really want a conversation without fearing that she would hate me for having needs.

    So now the kids are older and some of them are out of the house and we can often (but not always) grab some time on the weekends for just us. She’s cut back on work and has more energy for phone calls, and I appreciate that she will actually call me once or twice a week. Most of our contact is still over text but it no longer bugs me. Instead of telling myself “if she REALLY LIKED me, she’d call,” I tell myself “she’s making a real effort to stay in touch.” I am so, so, glad that we worked it out – I would not have made it through the last ten years without her.

    tl;dr: use your words, listen appreciatively, and think about the story you are telling yourself.

    • CMart said:

      Piggybacking on your comment to add a tangential thought re: people with kids and phone calls.

      Carrying on a verbal conversation with kids under the age of, idk, 6*? around is honestly impossible to do with any semblance of quality. 90% of your attention is devoted to the child(ren), and the 10% that’s left is honestly an insult to the person you’re trying to have a conversation with. I have felt like the worst, most inattentive, selfish friend in the world since I had my first child because I just don’t have the ability to focus or listen or even string together a coherent thought from start to finish if I’m supposed to be watching my kids. I need both my hands available and at least one ear unburdened by headphones. Even if I’m not actively playing with them, I’m still interjecting every couple minutes with a “don’t touch that, please use your nice hands, yes I see that, come back here, ‘baby’ starts with the letter B b-b-baby, tables are not for standing, do you need help?, please give me that, are you okay?” and on and on. Phone calls are just a nightmare to try and navigate right now. The best/only way to stay in contact with my friends is via text. And for my friends who don’t “do” text? I see them twice a year now. Maybe.

      Point being: when trying to negotiate or get a sense for what kinds of communication may work for a friendship, if the friend in question is a parent of young children then I think it’s really important to factor in that text-based communication might be the only way they can stay in touch, for a time. And whether or not that’s something you’re willing to take into consideration.

      *I have a 1 and 3 year old and have no idea when the “constant vigilance” stage starts to wane, I’m praying by Kindergarten maybe

      • Peggy Larkin said:

        Mine are almost-five and almost-two, and it’s calming down a bit (helps that 2 is an introvert who will happily play alone for a few minutes, but all bets are off if he wants to play with 5, who wants nothing to do with him and ONLY wants ALL PARENTAL ATTENTION AT ALL TIMES ALWAYS). Anyway there’s hope! I promise!

        …but I still sneak texts/chat 90% of the time because it can be asymmetrical. Sometimes I do phone calls on my commute or after Kid Bedtime, but by then I’m mostly out of energy.

        Luckily, my friend chat group is geographically and temporally scattered and they don’t mind asymmetry. Other than that… 😹 I hang out with Netflix, mostly!

      • HistorianNina said:

        Mine are 10, 7, and 4 so I now have the opposite problem – texting takes my hands and eyes away from whatever chore I’m working on, but I can do plenty of stuff while talking on the phone. My folks travel a lot and when they are gone, they like to text instead of talk. They would text stuff and then check to see if I had gotten the texts and I would call and they would be like “well we can’t talk now” and I finally realized what was happening and had to just tell them when they got back, “look, if I text with you, I basically have to put down all my chores and just look at my phone and I can’t do that. So call me or we can catch up when you’re back.” Luckily, they got it and it’s been fine, but it was an interesting moment for me to realize that texting, which I had previously seen as less disruptive, is actually more difficult than phone calls now because my kids are in a totally different life stage. Of course, when they are all home, they still have the kid-radar where they are totally fine and quietly occupied until I get on the phone and then suddenly everyone needs something…

  12. hamsterpants said:

    LW, as I have gotten older (I am now in my 30s) I have found that big group events are harder and harder to pull off, at least in a way that is enjoyable to all. This is probably because, as we age, we get to know ourselves better and are better at standing up for ourselves vs. putting up with things we dislike in the name of social harmony. This is a good thing! It also means that it becomes more important to actively pursue individual relationships vs. counting on The Group to check all social-needs boxes.

    So the advice to connect with people individually is very good advice! Put aside, for now, the idea of The Group being a thing worth courting and focus on individuals instead.

    I’d also recommend creativity, meaning, being open to having different sorts of friendships and friend-activities with different people. I have a collage-making friend, a few postcard-writing friends, opera-watching friends, beer friends, book club friends, “get together once a month and I’ll make cinnamon buns and you will bring your cute toddler and said toddler will play with my friendly cat” friends… there are many options!

  13. Virginia Galloway said:

    I have a friend–living in another state–who will read texts but refuses to learn how to respond to them because she’d rather have phone conversations. If we could exchange texts, I’d provide her with a more or less daily commentary about what I’m doing, but texting into the void feels pretty pointless to me. I am an introvert who, particularly now, is struggling with depression, and I simply don’t have the strength for protracted talk, so I’m MONTHS overdue for calling her. While I am sure that she feels neglected, I’m also resentful that she’s asking for energy that I don’t have to spare, and I don’t even feel strong enough to explain to her why I’ve been silent for so long. I have postponed calling her for so long that I now feel essential dread about placing the call, which is not helping.

    I love her, but I do not love the increasing weight of **expectation** that I’m feeling.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Seems to me that your friend is in no position to “feel neglected” if you haven’t called her. If she only does phone calls, why isn’t she calling you? As I always say, “the phone works both ways.”
      If she’s not calling you because it’s “your turn” to call, you have a bigger issue than texting vs talking.

      I’m sorry you’re struggling. I know what that’s like, the dread of the phone call or letter you’ve been putting off for too long. Would it ease your mind if you texted her “been thinking of you, but just haven’t had the spoons to pick up the phone. xxooxx” That way, she knows what’s going on and you can ditch the guilt. When you are up for calling her – or she calls you – nothing says the call must be “protracted.” Figure out what you’ve got the spoons for and then end it. If she can’t accept that you’ve only got so much in you right now, that’s useful information.

      Hang in there and jedi hugs.

      • eironeiaearthlinknet said:

        Oh, thanks. She would not, I assure you, understand the reference to “spoons” (she’s in her late 70s), but she does–at least on some level–understand that I have my own issues that can make staying in close contact difficult for me. I do love her and fret about her relative isolation (she and her husband moved and then he died), but that still doesn’t mean that I have the strength right now for a phone call.

        I appreciate the hugs.

        • CuriousLu said:

          LOL Being in her late 70’s doesn’t preclude her from understanding Spoon Theory. But she may not have heard of it if she’s not much into the internet. So email or snail mail it to her with a note about why you’d like to be able to text with her. And ask for suggestions about how to stay connected.

          • CuriousLu said:

            HaHa! meant to italicize ‘late 70s’, but got confused while doing my first HTML code. OK boomer! LOL

  14. Ixolite said:

    I really love everything about this letter; I broke things off with a guy I dated this summer for similar incompatibility reasons around online communication and now I understand what happened a lot better.

    He was a good dude, but he liveblogged his every waking thought into our text conversation and it was absolutely overwhelming. I enjoy the occasional text conversation, but my little daily anchor against loneliness (love that concept, btw) is more of the “send a meme once in a while” speed. It became really draining for me really quick, and it kinda sucked because it didn’t feel like he was a jerk or anything so I didn’t get why we couldn’t just adjust to each other. Now I get it really was just a matter of us having too different, too strong preferences to be able to square the circle.

    At the end of the day the Captain is very right – the affection I had for this guy made it worth trying for a little bit, but not more than that, and ultimately that is fine.

    My last relationships were all so dramatic – tbh, it’s nice to be able to tell myself that I dated someone, it didn’t work, and that is fine.

  15. Lw are you sure that it’s not you who’s taking offense at their behavior. Like sure it’s possible that a group of 6 or so people are all mad about you because you don’t read the group text, but isn’t it more likely that you are on the lookout for signs of rejections and you are just taking passing comments as insults?

    In the end of the day group chat doesn’t work for you so don’t use it. Find the medium that’s best for you. But it’s worth examining how much seething resentment and assigned malice you project on something that’s not that big a deal.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Passive aggressive snark from friends might be not a big deal to you, but I think most people would find it disturbing and distressing.
      When you ask someone what they’ve been up to and they say “if you had read the chat, you would know” and when you do participate they say “wow nice of you to drop in” you don’t need to “be on the lookout” for rejection.

      I don’t think it’s LW who is projecting seething resentment and assigned malice.

      • I don’t necessarily see malice or resentment, just incompatibility. For some people, comments like what LW described could be meant as friendly razzing. It doesn’t mean that LW is wrong or “misinterpreting,” though — just that styles aren’t meshing.

        • clavieresque said:

          If LW’s friends did the razzing bit and then happily filled them in on whatever had been happening that LW had missed, I would read that as friendly razzing. It doesn’t seem like that is what is happening. LW describes people as acting “rejected” and complaining in person that LW doesn’t talk in chats and keep up with them. So this doesn’t read to me like a simple case of razzing so much as different expectations for level of engagement and some rudeness about LW’s level/availability being different!

          Group chats do not have to be overwhelming or require constant vigilance. My own chat groups are generally very happy to provide a recap of what’s happened lately. Obviously not to the point of covering every sandwich eaten and every neat bird spotted, but people are happy to repeat their big news or catch people up on something fun that happened so that everyone can be in the loop.

          My groups would also generally be pretty accepting if I asked them to use less friendly razzing and loving put-downs with me (but not with each other) because however those are meant, my brain would react badly. I might just be projecting, but my distress is still real, and it doesn’t really hurt my friends to change how they address me.

          If making a couple of slight adjustments to include LW is too much for this group, then yes, I suppose that is incompatibility. But I wish LW the best of luck in finding their people among this group or in another!

      • aebhel said:

        Yeah, even if they wished LW would engage more, that kind of passive-aggressive snark is the worst way to go about it. ‘Oh, nice of you to finally drop in’ and then ignoring someone is not how you treat someone you actually want to engage with, you know?

        IDK, maybe it’s because I’m at a stage in my life where I and most of my friends don’t really have the time to be constantly socially engaged, but to me the passive-aggressive shaming is way more of a big deal than the medium where it’s happening. I mean, if it were a weekly meatspace hangout that someone missed a lot of and then they got ‘lol well if you were HERE then you wouldn’t have to ASK’ and then ignored when they show up and ask how people are doing, I don’t think it’s projecting to feel rejected and unwelcome.

        • Hannah said:

          Exactly! It’s like one friend of mine who whenever I call her always leads off with “OH you FINALLY called! You NEVER call me” and some grousing blah blah blah about how annoyed they are that I don’t call and NO they won’t tell me whatever because if I had been talking to them every whatever I’d already be up to speed” To which I think “if you want me to call you more, maybe don’t rant at me and give me the cold shoulder when I actually DO call you?…. maybe actually make calling you a HAPPY, PLEASANT experience instead of a beat down, list off of all the ways you think I’m a bad friend?… just maybe?”

  16. The group chat thing specifically would be a dealbreaker for me.

    That said, I have convinced a surprising number of my friends who previously said they only wanted to talk via text or in group chats to call or video chat with me. Typically we schedule ahead of time, or I’ll send a text first saying, “can I call you? Not urgent.”

    I do think framing as a “me” issue helped; I have OCD and I was able to explain to most people that it’s too easy for social media to trigger an obsessive thought spiral, so I don’t have most social media apps.

    I will say, though, figuring out how to get people to meet up in person more often is a real challenge. Scheduling can be pretty complicated just due to work schedules, having to prioritize kids and responsibilities, and also struggling with last-minute cancellations due to legitimate illness (more than one person in my friend group, self included, has a chronic physical or mental illness).

    I have found that talking on the phone or screen sharing so we can talk + watch a movie together from different places is more of an achievable happy medium.

  17. I’m an extrovert with no out of preference facets on the E-I spectrum; I am initiating, expressive, gregarious, active, and enthusiastic. I tick all the extrovert boxes: verbal processing, energized by speaking/performing in front of large groups, enjoy parties, etc etc. I work in a field where I spend about half of my working hours in meetings, delivering presentations, and in one-on-one client appointments. I also need a lot of alone time to recharge, because that is also a thing for extroverts. When I am in my office researching, writing, or recovering from appointments, I want to be disengaged from everything, and I spend most of my nights at home with my spouse and pets, recharging. I’m extremely strong in a variety of strategic thinking skills, and also in influencing people. I’m sure I have relationship-building skills, because my clients often feel very close to me and perceive us as having a very strong working relationship, but damned if I know what they are, because I am utter shite at keeping in touch if there’s no proximity.

    My 3 best friends live in 3 different countries. The one who lives in my country lives all the way across the country from me. My friends and I mostly keep in touch via text, social media, email, and some phone calls. I’ve maintained my relationship with my bff (who lives on a different continent) through scheduled calls and gifts, because we are awake basically only a few of the same hours, so social media and texting works less well than it could. Some realizations about myself that helped me: I am bad at maintaining relationships if there isn’t proximity, so I have to use what I am good at, which is mostly strategic thinking, to find ways to manufacture a spurious proximity, in this case through social media and texting. I also had to figure out what my planning windows are for outings (though with my best friends scattered so widely, that’s less important these days), and for me, short term is 2 hours and long term is 2 weeks. 3 months out is too long and I will forget. 25 minutes is not enough time for me to nerve myself up for putting pants back on and leaving the house. Knowing this about myself made it easier for me to make plans both in any individual instance and across my life as a whole, but knowing this about myself and being able to articulate it to others made it easier for me find my kindred spirits and to assert my boundaries and preferences in relationships, and both of those things are necessary, in my experience.

    Each of my closest friendships has found its own way forward, as they do, but that process has been a negotiation between each friend and I, and I think that’s the key to building relationships despite whatever situational or intrinsic barriers exist.

  18. I just wanted to share the tapestry of human existence: recently I’ve begun writing old-fashioned letters to select friends who I really want to keep in better touch with and The Algorithm isnt’ showing me their posts and I miss them but I only see them like twice a year when the moons align and our calendars are both open. I’m a very extra person so I bought pretty stationary and matching envelopes and a wax seal so getting a letter from me is A Special Treat and it seems to be working, my friends keep writing back 😀 So no matter what works for you, if it’s working, keep doing it.

    • The Bibliotherapod. said:

      I love this! My friend who I see once a year and who has a cluttered house and a baby recently pulled out the notes we passed each other in school 20 years ago, which she kept all this time. Handwritten relics are the best.

    • neverjaunty said:

      I really dislike the new trend of sneakily dismissing people who truly enjoy details and fussing and special touches (without insisting everyone do the same) as “extra”. Don’t you do it to yourself! Your letters sound wonderful.

  19. hintofthecentury said:

    I don’t think LW said how old they and their friends are, but they all sound like they’re on the younger end. Time may take care of some of this–as people get older and become busier with work and hobbies and relationship/family responsibilities, etc., there is almost no way they’ll be able to keep up the stream of consciousness texting. (I would think?)

    I’ve encountered similar issues with individual friends in my own life. One friend that I primarily texted and would sometimes get together with in person completely stopped texting, and I’ve accepted the friendship is over (and if she wants to reach out to me, she will). Another friend and I parted ways because our communication styles, among other things, didn’t mesh well and I didn’t have the time to talk on the phone (her communication preference) while I had a newborn.

    On the other hand, I text with my two best friends almost daily (at the very least, weekly) and that’s how we keep up with each other. Sometimes we talk on the phone. I see them infrequently because we live far apart.

    All this is to say: I think if the friendship is important to the people involved, you find ways to keep it going. If your core values/whatever your friendship is based on isn’t terribly strong or you’re not compatible to begin with, it’s much harder to sustain. And all of that seems pretty obvious, but I think it’s less obvious until you’re in a situation where you’re the odd person out who isn’t active in the group chat and things seem to be kind of falling apart. It sounds like LW and their friends may not be compatible. My reaction to LW saying everyone was texting the group chat while hanging out was: Oh hell no. (I would not be okay with that! And sounds like LW isn’t, either.) The advice to try to sustain friendships with individuals in the group is a good one–if that doesn’t work, I would consider letting these relationships go and finding new friends.

    • A Silver Spork said:

      You’d be surprised! My mother is almost 60 and she still manages to keep up a string of consciousness (on LJ, not texting, because she’s old school and also her eyesight isn’t so great these days). Her friends on other continents who haven’t seen her since before I was born know eeeeeeeeverything about her days. And I really do mean everything – she tells them about personal issues her kids are dealing with, every tiny problem she runs into, what the weather is like.

      And then she couldn’t even remember to tell me that a relative was deathly ill for several months. [facepalm]

      • Vicki said:

        LJ stream of consciousness can be a bit odd because it’s part communication-to-others and part open-ended journaling, with a side order of “sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” In some ways it’s easier to just dump “this is what’s going on right now” onto the page/screen than to stop and think about which bits are important, and which will matter to other people. And when those aren’t the same bits, I might not get around to telling other people what they need or want to know. My friends are likely to care more about what I saw at the museum, but if “oh god that was too much walking I shouldn’t do it three days in a row” is at the front of my mind by the time I get home, I might not get around to telling people what I saw, or even put the “too much walking” part in a way that would be useful for someone who also cares about my health.

        Some of us are better than others at remembering “most people aren’t reading your LJ” — or, more specifically, that Mom might be but my aunt certainly isn’t, and that nobody is guaranteed to see every post. If I was in your place, I might try “I don’t always see things online, what’s important in *your* life?” (i.e., hers, not her neighbor’s or the latest local political scandal); in hers, I do a certain amount of “I lose track of who I’ve told what to, did I mention I just joined a gym?”

        • A Silver Spork said:

          I wasn’t aware that LJ operated like that, it’s good to know, so thanks! I’ll keep that in mind for the people in my life who are online a lot. My mother and I are estranged now, my choice, and will stay that way for as long as I can manage – she was a terrible parent all around and the online stuff was only a small part of that.

          (And when it comes to other family members, I’ve gotten their contact info so now grandma can tell me directly if she’s having a crisis instead of hoping that someone will let me know.)

    • faeriepteri said:

      My mother and her colleagues (who are mostly around their 50s) have a group chat where the second they’re off work will text on constantly about the smallest life updates. And memes, let’s not forget the flood of memes.

  20. Tina said:

    “After the MeetUp where they suggested that they were offended and hurt that I didn’t talk on the chat I tried to join in by saying hi in the chat and asking what people were up to, but they were upset with me there, saying “wow nice of you to drop in”. So I gave up.”

    Oof, I feel this one. It can be so frustrating when people punish the behavior they seem to want to encourage. It reminds me of when I call my dad and he picks up with, “OH, so you DO know how to use the phone!” Like, great, you make me feel bad when I call you, do you see how this makes me… not want to call you?

    • I have no idea where I first heard the expression “Don’t punish the behavior you want to see,” but it totally rocked my world. I think most people are guilty of that sometimes, and having a concise little mantra (and a concise way to respond – “Hey, don’t punish the behavior you want to see – I’m doing X! Embrace it so I’ll keep it up!” in a ribbing tone with a smile) is so helpful.

  21. This is completely off topic, but this post and comments are fascinating to me — I’m 70 years old, and I likely send three texts a week, if that.
    All of my relationships with family and friends and previously with co-workers have always in person or by phone or by email. I didn’t even realize there were apps like the people here are talking about.
    Its a generational divide, I guess, or maybe something deeper — there is a whole world of communication going on which I don’t participate in and knew nothing about.
    Maybe that’s sad. Or maybe not. Like the OP, I don’t think I would have liked narrating my life in a stream-of-consciousness way either, if I had had the opportunity to do this when I was in my 20s — its a little too close to a “borg” society to be comfortable for me (if anybody still remembers that version of Star Trek). I think I prefer to develop my thoughts and do my work unencumbered by someone else’s oversight or approval, however affectionately given. YMMV

    • Virginia said:

      Latching onto “a little too close to a ‘borg’ society to be comfortable for me” just long enough to say that of all the villains or threatening species within the “Star Trek” universe, the Borg freak me out most. The notion of never having a private thought gives me the horrors.

      Like you, I am older (66), and I prefer to narrate my life with anecdotes, not constant commentary.

  22. The Bibliotherapod. said:

    I find the following useful to me, as a disabled homebody with mostly long distance friends who doesn’t use Facebook/Twitter:

    – I make a weekly phone chat date with my friend, sometimes this involves setting an alarm reminder to call her at a time I know I will have energy for.

    – I keep a bunch of generic funny/cute/whimsical postcards with stamps ready to mail to my long distance friends with little hi, thinking of you messages.

    – I set aside time each day to tend to the Whatsapp family witterings. It’s a necessary chore, like brushing my teeth or laundering my dogs bed. At least I am aware of the big news.

    – I try to accept that I will never be the Fantasy Friend I think I ought to be. And that’s because there are lots of aspects of my life (trauma, disability, poverty, rural location) that aren’t conducive to being the most awesome bestie ever, I just don’t have the spoons for it. Sometimes I silently project that insecurity about the kind of friend I am (not good enough) onto my friend (why can’t they call more often, less often, intuit my needs, suggest a cafe nearer?) And often that happens along with a lot of distorted thinking like mind reading, black and white thinking, resentment, and I need to take care of those emotions underneath first, then deal with friendship logistics.

    • Nanani said:

      Can second weekly scheduled calls (or chats or any medium) working well. I’ve done this a lot as I and/or my friends have moved to new time zones. You only need to figure out the mutually feasible time once! Cuts on the “are they awake/at home right now or would I be interrupting” mental math.

  23. This reminds me of when everybody was suddenly on Facebook and I wasn’t. I did stop getting invited to things (not on purpose, just because a general invite was posted to the board), but also I was kind of ok with that? Eventually everybody moved on to another stage of life. I have no advice on how to stay connected, just sympathy for a less than pleasant switch from previous to current technology.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      Argh! the people who post events only on FB! “Well it was on Facebook!” as if Mark Zuckerberg personally called everyone.
      I have to assume that the people who do that are okay with having only FB followers attend.
      I am fortunate that my friends who are let me know if there is an event they think I’ll want to go to, usually with them.

  24. Emma9 said:

    I used to be in a collaborative writing groups that I really enjoyed, where most of the actual stories were composed by back-and-forth email, but also there was an AIM chat.

    I avoided joining this for as long as possible, because I hate live chats and I know it, but there was a lot of nagging because this chat was where most plotting-related discussions tended to go, so A) a writing partner would want to check something with me on the chat and try to convince me to join, or B) a story thread would appear on the email list that I would have loved being part of or having input on, but all the prep had been done via the chat and now there was no place for me.

    Finally I caved, and it was as horrible as I anticipated – just a long stream of messages, no threaded discussions, and since I couldn’t be constantly online monitoring it, when I checked in once a day I’d end up spending a half-hour or more laboriously scrolling.

    The other folks in the group, to their credit, didn’t pressure me to read everything, but it bothered ME to just jump into the chat and start talking, ignoring the mountain of unread things looming above. I’m a completionist and really sucky at not being so.

    It quickly became an unpleasant chore that sprawled out even more if I dared turn my back on it for a day, and gradually I started hating belonging to the group because of it, and in the end I left.

  25. Amy said:

    For me, there are two main aspects to figuring out whether I can make a given communication style work for me. One is knowing where I can be flexible–what can I offer if the other person wants it, what I can tolerate, where I can offer grace even if I don’t love something. And the other is knowing my limits–what I definitely can’t offer no matter how much someone wants it, what I can’t tolerate no matter how convenient it would be, where I can’t offer flexibility without making myself miserable.

    For me, that means that I’m willing to do basically any communication *medium* for a friendship: phone calls, texts, emails, coffee shop hangouts, group chats, sending memes back and forth without further comment, facebook, instagram, whatever. I do have preferences (I’m a classic millennial, I hate phone calls) but I’m able and willing to be flexible on this front if a loved one’s preferences don’t line up with mine.

    But, regardless of medium, there’s a hard limit on *timing* of communication. I’m rarely going to be paying attention to my phone at the right time to respond within minutes; heck, I won’t guarantee within hours, I’ll apologize if it takes me two days to reply to a text but I’ll never promise it won’t happen again because it probably will. I might leave you on read for a while if I saw the message but it’s not a good time for me to stop and engage with it; It’s not because I’m mad, it’s not because I don’t love you anymore, I’m just not a person who’s going to be reachable all the time. If you want a medium like phone calls that requires me to be present right then instead of replying three hours later, probably that needs to be scheduled in advance; you can try calling whenever you’re free, but I probably won’t pick up. Basically, trying to be responsive on the timeline that most people consider ‘timely’ makes me really stressed and anxious, so I set the expectation upfront that it’s not going to happen.

    I do know some people hate this and can’t cope with it. That’s fair and valid, but it’s still not a thing I can do, so we’re probably not going to be close friends. I just don’t have flexibility to offer on this front; it’s an area where I need to ask for flexibility, not offer it to others. So I guess what helps me stay connected to others is both offering compromises where I can (medium), AND being really upfront about where I really can’t (timing/timeliness), and letting others decide for themselves if they can work with that. If they can, great, we’re in good shape. If they can’t, no hard feelings, we’re both great still, we’re just not compatible for close friendship.

  26. I am generally the admin of the group chat. I’ve invited people in, it hasn’t been their thing, and the result is we see each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party once a year and like each other’s Facebook posts sometimes and when we meet say hey we should get together sometime soon. We don’t. That’s okay. They have multiple channels to get ahold of me and invite me to stuff. I have a way I keep in frequent touch with people. If neither of us has spoons to stretch outside of our comfort zone and make it happen, that’s actually not a problem for the friendship.
    What would be a problem is if anyone shamed anyone for how we choose to communicate, or not to communicate. As things are, we’re very clear on the fact that we like each other, because we show it by respecting each other. If spoon counts or communication styles change, hey, we’ll see each other more. If either of us insisted on making the other person different, we’d resent each other and those birthday party catch ups would be a lot less fun and we might not be friends.

  27. RuthMore said:

    The one thing I think has worked best for me as a person is to figure out forms of communication with friends that are asynchronous AND do not demand a response at all, much less an immediate one.

    Liking/favoriting/reblogging/retweeting posts, sending crazy crime mystery stories or cute cat pictures or Star Trek memes or pages on Ravelry, etc can be way more helpful for maintaining contact with people and having continued happy relationships than trying to force myself to text or call (nope!) or respond in a timely manner to messages/emails (impossible!). It is much easier and actually fun to send quick little paragraphs or posts if I feel like I am engaging voluntarily and the friend knows I’m talking to them because I like them and not because I feel guilty.

    I know some people feel hurt, rejected, humiliated, and ignored if not responded to immediately or promptly; I feel hounded, anxious, resentful, guilty, insufficient as a person, and angry if I am expected to or told to respond immediately or quickly. Neither feelings let friendship last!

    Ultimately I just have to be friends with people who do not need me on a daily basis and who do not see that as a reflection of our relationship. The only people I talk to every day are the ones I live with, and that might be just hi and bye. If I don’t talk to someone for six months, we don’t hate each other, life just happened, and then we meet up over delicious food and drink and talk into the night. C’est la vie.

  28. Biancasnoozes said:

    I’m wondering what is it about the people in this group, or the group as a whole, that the LW is really wanting to preserve? They say they like meeting up in person and keeping in touch that way, but it isn’t clear to me if that is really actually enjoyable at this point. It sounds like the dread of the Group Chat may be ballooning into dread of the group, more generally, especially because LW experiences the in-person interactions as 1) being criticized for their preferences and 2) feeling frustrated that everyone is on their phones.

    LW, imagine that you just deleted your group chats and the result was that you didn’t hang out with these people anymore? Would you miss them? Or would you be hesitant to do that because it would significantly reduce your social opportunities, and you would feel lonely? Because if it is the latter, I think that shows you where you should spend your energies–trying to make some new connections with people who make you feel good. If there ARE people who you would genuinely miss, I think the suggestion to put your energy into enriching those individual relationships is a good one.

    • Amy said:

      I suspect that OP likes how they remember the group being when they were all younger, and is looking to preserve a connection to that, rather than necessarily being super into the group in its current form.

      Which is super understandable! Especially since there’s no clear moment of rupture–it’s the same people, the same hangouts are still happening, so of course it feels like the old dynamic should still be there in some way. But ‘should be’ doesn’t mean that it actually is, and if that old enjoyable dynamic is gone, then it’s better to acknowledge that and start moving on than pretend there’s still something to preserve.

    • I love this!

      “Do you like these people, y/n? If yes, hang out one on one. If no, find new friends.”

      The end! 🙂

  29. Kitty said:

    I was becoming increasingly frustrated with a friend who had so many other friends and so many things they were involved in they they’d stopped prioritising catching up with me as much as they used to. After months of becoming more and more annoyed and hurt that they would respond to some messages but not others, and kept postponing catching up, I decided to just drop the rope and stop putting so much effort in when it didn’t seem to be reciprocated. Now, when they make the effort to message me about something or suggest a catch up it’s a nice surprise, and I don’t feel like I’m nagging them into anything. I also only message them occasionally when there’s something specific I think of that they would enjoy, rather than trying to keep up to date on their day to day life, which they didn’t seem very interested in sharing much. We have definitely drifted, but we’re still friendly and now when they suggest a hang out I know it’s because they definitely want to see me.

  30. siranoyd said:

    I kept in touch with highschool friends via texting and it REALLY didn’t work for me. It felt like every month, someone would text me like “hey we haven’t talked in forever, how are you!” and then we’d have a brief chat and I’d feel guilty for 1) not having something exciting to say 2) not having messaged them earlier (but when??). Then I would put off texting them back, because I already felt bad (and because I genuinely often take a day or two to text someone back), and that just made everything worse.

    When you transition from proximity-friends to long-distance-friends, you definitely have to change your expectations. I still feel kind of guilty for not even talking once a week when we saw each other 5 times a week before. But for a long-distance-friend, that’s fine! I made a list once of everyone I want to keep in touch with. If I wanted to talk to them once a week, I’d have to meet like 2.5 people each day! That gave me some perspective.

    Anyway, I discovered that a 2-hour phone call, every 2-3 months, works perfectly for me. And my friends were happy to accommodate me. They follow each other on Instagram and text in a group chat (which I read and occasionally participate in), but when it comes to talking to me, they know that I want to hear their voice. It just helps me regulate my emotions. I don’t have to guess how they’re feeling about the conversation. And I don’t have to worry whether my intended tone of voice is coming across. That is SO MUCH nicer? (For me. I’m aware other people hate it.)

  31. Feminist BI.tch said:

    I can relate. I immediately mute ALL of my group chats and try to only look at them when I feel like it, and if there are too many texts, I either skim or ignore. I actually like the division between “one chat is to ORGANIZE our hangouts / joint presents / etc, the other is for everything else” but that comes with the understanding that everyone has an absolute right to ignore the second.
    I also take it for granted that people have busy lives, so while it sucks when a friend doesn’t get back to you, I assume goodwill and lower my expectations, then try to adjust our ways of communicating, like “no whatsapp, just a text when I want to meet up” or “just calls” or even “we’ll bump into each other when we do”. This last category is also where most friends who guilt-trip me for not reaching out end up. That said, my old high school friends group had this toxic dynamic and breaking it up (which in my case meant to get out of the group chat and never looking back) worked wonders. Years later, I’m still somewhat in touch with some of them and a couple are and remain close friends, some others vanished completely and that’s ok, too. Also, a new group chat was created, but with fewer people, much less used, and above all, it never gave me that uneasiness I was so used to

  32. I was part of a friend group that had a group chat on Facebook (and the various spin-off chats that didn’t have X or Y person for “Reasons”) that was definitely a running commentary of everyone’s day. What first started out as a “hey here’s what I’m doing” or “hey here’s a fun event, let’s go to this” turned into a hugely toxic complaint-fest where most of the participants would just get upset about their lives, issues they refused to address (but loved to complain about), and also talk crap about other people outside of the chat. If you didn’t keep up with the chat, you would get privately messaged by at least two specific people (it was the same two people every time), wondering what you were doing and why you weren’t actively participating when they knew you were awake/not working/free. It got to the point where I was getting anxiety from dealing with the chat. And god help you if you marked yourself as unable to attend an event via Facebook. You would get bombarded with messages in multiple chats and in direct messages about why couldn’t you go, what was so important, etc. etc. It was awful. I eventually uninstalled Messenger and used the excuse that I couldn’t deal with it going off at work. I was “lucky” that they accepted that answer. I muted the chats and eventually faded out from all of those friendships, because ultimately the people involved needed more energy output from me than I was willing to give, and gave me no energy or even kindness in return.

    I guess for the LetterWriter, if you are interested in keeping these friendships, then maybe have direct conversations with the 1 or 2 people you are closest to and let them know that you just can’t keep up because of your social stamina. Mental well-being and mental health are becoming more acceptable to talk about, and so is self-care, so maybe going that route might get the point across better? Otherwise, I think that you are looking at possibly having to uninstall the app just to get a much-needed break from the anxiety.

  33. Kacienna said:

    As I’ve realized how much I hate most phone calls, I’ve been pushing back against them. I’ll talk to my parents on the phone and to close friends if they have something specific they want to talk about, but in general I hate it for general catching up and for exchanging information. One of the best things for me has been for volunteer/advocacy organizations, when the contact suggests we have a phone call, just telling them flat out that email, text, or an in-person meeting would be so much better for me. For the kind of work I want to do, there are enough outlets that I don’t need to do phone calls.

    I like to be either in-person or asynchronous. Sometimes those “asynchronous” platforms will actually end up as real-time text based convos, either by text or on FB, but it’s fine when they don’t. Even though I’m an introvert, one thing that makes it easier for me is that I’m happy being an organizer, which lets me do things the way I prefer, and I’m fine with long pauses between hangouts. As long as I enjoy the person’s company when we do get together, I’m basically okay with having that just happen when we can make it work. And maybe another thing that makes that work is having built up a large enough social network (which is why I’m never moving ever!) that if I need support, I can find someone who’s available within a day or so or I can post on FB and whoever has the cutlery to comment can do so. But I know there is a lot of privilege that goes into being able to build a network that way, as well.

  34. This is giving me food for thought. I’ve been thinking about the communication pattern I’ve fallen into with my folks and how unsatisfying it is. Unfortunately I don’t know how to change it. Part of the disconnect is exactly this issue; a difference of mode/style of communication. They have called me, (almost,) every week I’ve been moved out of home. For my part, I’m not a “phone” person really, with anyone – I have trouble understanding what is being said, I sometimes struggle to pay attention, I struggle to hold a conversation. Unfortunately, I’m realizing this is layered on top of other issues I have with relationships and phone conversations; as a result, my best description of the sensation of a phone call for me is: “failing a pop quiz for about an hour”. (I should add, my folks are perfectly pleasant, nothing is “wrong” with these conversations)
    I’m willing to do it, I guess, if they want to talk on the phone but I just feel stuck. I don’t even know how to bring it up without feeling like an ungrateful, sulking, child: “I love you but my brain is always going to find talking on the phone to be an unpleasant chore, are the weekly calls good? Do you want to talk more? I don’t know what you’re getting out of these calls, cuz Im bored to tears bt them but is it working for you?” I have no way to gauge how these calls are going except that I hate them, but I feel like I shouldn’t lead with that. :/

  35. Clarry said:

    The thing that helped me the most was reframing the problem as one of accepting or declining providing a service. I think of the service as editing because it’s a bit like an editor for the writer of a novel. Under the best of circumstances, the author writes her novel and polishes it up to the best shape possible, then gives it to the editor who says “take this section out, rewrite this confusing bit, rewrite this boring bit, and expand on this.” Under the worse of circumstances, the author has some half thought out ideas, makes a few notes, and hands it to the editor who is then tasked actually with ghost writing the whole thing. That’s my analogy for this friend group culture. They’re saying everything and expecting the reader/listener/friend to figure out what’s important, what’s a good idea, what needs to be expanded on, what’s important and should be paid attention to, what should be ignored. They’ve delegated the editing work to everyone else.

    Do you want to accept that job? If you accept it, can you see yourself as providing the service? I guess I don’t need to tell you that my answer is “nope, too much work,” but that’s me. I look at the original letter and see “I would really like these people if only they’d change, but as it is, I don’t like what they do online, and I don’t like being with them when we’re in person either.” You’d like them if they did their own editing work. I see your get-togethers as their effort to convince you that you should edit and your trying to convince them that that’s not your job. The question is how to decline performing this service without offending them and without feeling guilty yourself. If you can see it as their asking you to spend your weekends painting their garage and to their seeing your painting their garage as an act of friendship, then I bet you could see your way clear to give a cheery “no thanks” and leave it at that.

  36. BethRA said:

    Sometimes you can tweak the technology so so it’s more like forms of interaction that don’t bug quite so much. Texting and texting-adjacent forms like WhatsApp are my absolute least favorite ways to communicate. If it’s going to require any kind of back-and-forth, I’d rather call. If it needs more thoughtful input, I’m generally happier with email. What’s made me less of a crab cake about it, though, is having downloaded apps to my computer that allow me to interact with texts/Whatsapps in a way that’s similar to how I handle email, and allows me to read/respond without leaving the computer an picking up the smartphone so it feels less disruptive (I’m on my computer all day for work).

  37. So very well said!! This is indeed share-worthy. I have often felt as you do. I cannot possibly keep up with everyone on FB or Twitter (the only 2 social media I even use). I don’t dwell all day on either. Why? Because hours and hours go by when I could have or should have been doing something actually productive! So I try to limit my time. I’d rather be reading a book, playing a game, watching something on Netflix, than spending hours scrolling through a social media stream. I only use FB to keep up with family and very good/old friends. That makes a huge difference for me. For Twitter, it’s mostly gamer related stuff. I keep everything separate and on a specific topic when possible. It makes it all much easier to keep track of, such as it is. Thanks so much for your post!

  38. Kelsey said:

    I totally understand OP on this! I have a similar friend group that has a huge TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME OMG chat, and I find it really stressful to keep up with. However, I’ve found a few ways to stay connected while disengaging from the Word Wall of Doom. I:

    1. Split off a couple new chats for things I could keep up with. There’s now a side “pets” chat and “our favorite TV show” chat that are much slower and all things I’m interested in.
    2. Muted the main channel, and had an honest joking “haha I know I’m weird but the main chat is so many words! Have fun, guys, but I just can’t keep up with it” conversation. No blaming, no anger, just being honest that it’s not my favorite way to connect.
    3. Reach out one-on-one in other ways. I send periodic “hey, what’s up, and here’s a cute platypus video!” messages to group members and keep up that way.
    4. Organize in-person group events whenever I can.

  39. janeaustensteacozy said:

    When I first moved out of the city with all my friends and halfway across the country, I kind of expected that a few of the friendships would drift right away. They did: these were people who prioritized in-person friendships over every other form of interaction, and as a result, aren’t really cut out for long-distance friendship. We see each other on the rare occasion I return to town, but otherwise, I don’t really hear from them, and that’s fine. But now, five years on, the only thing that’s really kept me connected with the rest has been a groupchat (a discord, like several other people are talking about). I resisted at first, but having that touchstone of socialization has been super important, since the new city is notoriously difficult to make friends in. Ironically, a lot of the people I’m meeting here have socialization styles similar to the OP, where the in-person is prioritized and phone calls are preferred over texting, and because of that we’re not really compatible.

    I guess what I’m saying is 1) I definitely appreciate how even-handed the reply is, because everyone’s got different preferences on this sort of thing, and 2) even if you split these friends off into one-on-one contacts, you still might not get the in-person preference you’re expecting. They still might prefer texting or messaging to grabbing coffee. It might take you finding a new group, OP, before you mesh with someone, and that’s going to be a bit disappointing for a while, maybe? But it’s worth it to find a group that you really get on with, because it sounds like this is super stressful for you.

  40. Kelsi said:

    I’m not a WhatsApp user so I’m not sure if this is possible–but LW, if you wanted a more moderate option, could you leave all chats except the Logistics one? I have removed myself from many a FB group message and Slack/Discord channel when this becomes the setup–and isn’t that WHY the chats get split out? So you can focus on the topic/info that you do want and avoid the ones you don’t?

    That said, CA is 100% right that if the app as a whole makes you feel dread, you shouldn’t try to compromise by only feeling a LITTLE dread. No dread at all is what we shoot for in friendships!

  41. Captain, thank you for explaining modern smartphone culture to me. I appreciate it.

    OP: If your friends complain, tell them that your boss has forbidden you to use your phone at work. All my jobs have had this rule.

  42. cavyherd said:

    I have a dearly beloved friend that I used to be in frequent, fairly lengthy email contact with, in addition to phone calls. Then he got sucked into Facebook, because that’s where all his family was hanging out, and I won’t touch Fb with a barge-pole, and he didn’t want to run a separate line via email (except on the rare occasions when he does :-\).

    So we fell out of touch for a loooong long time. Then, one day, I was desperate for company, so I called him, and during that call I said, “Ya know, we really shouldn’t go years between talks”—and out of the blue he suggested bi-weekly calls. So that’s what we’ve been doing the last six months or so, and it’s been working pretty well, even to the extent of enlivening our email correspondence again somewhat.

  43. Britpoptarts said:

    I left a group chat with friends I’d know for about 10 years, taken multiple trips with, gone to weddings of, etc., because I was going through a depressive episode and they would spam the group chat with Back Street Boys chat non-stop. The youngest of us was in our 30s, and I was not into 24/7 boyband talk AT ALL. I wasn’t the only one dying of boredom and begging for a subject change, but the only one in any kind of position to be the heavy and beg them to knock it off or go sub-channel. I suggested various ways they could continue to talk about the BSB, including offering to help them set up their own sub-group-chatter. Just for me begging for a break from the non-stop boyband talk, they all had tantrums for weeks on end about it, ramped up the boyband chat bcause they felt ‘censored,’ et., and then I had one bad day too many, came home to about 436 boyband emails in my inbox, out-tantrummed them back, felt like shit about it immediately because I expressed my feelings in colorful terms, but I was not allowed to apologize without being yelled at some more, and so I just threw up my hands and left. This meant I lost contact with about half of them.

    It’s a shame, and I own my part of it…I could have split off a chatter of my own instead of letting them take ownership of the original one I started. I could have been less vehement about my dislike of the non-stop puerile content. I had one too many bad days, got tired of always being the adult and patient and begging other adults to consider the feelings, expressed annoyances and preferences of the majority of the group, and the data / inbox limits of everyone else, and so I fucked up.

    On the plus side, I now have a lot of online friends who might mention boybands once in a blue moon, and don’t care if I sit that chat out / NOPE out. I miss some of my old friends (others I am still not that bothered to lose), regret I let my depression turn me into a rage-hag when *ALL* OF THE NICE, POLITE, CAREFUL WORDS and *REPEATED* NICE, POLITE, CAREFUL REQUESTS failed to get my point across better, and all in all, I decided to just DO LESS and DOING LESS was hard at first, but it ended up being mostly good.

    I only wish my way of DOING LESS was much less dramatic and abrupt, and that I had just faded away and let them turn the original group it whatever they wanted it to change into, while starting a new one elsewhere as a refuge for everyone else annoyed by everything. But hindsight is 20/20.

    If you don’t have time to deal with constant chatter about 2% milk, or what someone had for lunch, or smelly people on the bus (or fucking boybands every GD hour of the day and night), I second your possible decision to uninstall the app that is causing the friction, especially as you apparently cannot use it to the extent or frequency they want you to, and that’s unlikely to change until feelings get bruised and someone flounces or bails amid a tornado of ill-will and bad feelings.

    But I recommend a polite ghosting where you get busier and busier, and then a deletion of the app when they get used to you never being on it. Go out with a whimper, not a bang, if you don’t care to hear everyone’s opinion about how you spend your spare time and energy. Good luck, OP.

  44. Lin said:

    I relate to this letter so much. I’ve had several very close long-distance friendships in which I’ve had to navigate this space (one of which is definitely struggling at the moment).

    Friend 1 has been my friend for over 15 years. First it was long weekly phone calls (for about a decade) and yearly visits, and then she got married and our contact dropped drastically. Now it’s maybe once every other month short calls and occasional texts or visits. We’re trying to start texting more but it’s a hard shift. Still in flux, but we’ll navigate it somehow; we’ve always managed.

    Friend 2 (of over a decade)… I learned from my mistakes with Friend 1 haha. Friend 2 had a baby last year and I just straight-up told her, “Look, I care about you and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep our friendship. Whatever you need, I’ll do. Whatever you can manage with a newborn, I’ll take. If it’s texting me at 3am while you’re nursing, that’s great.” I checked in on her a lot in the early days, and though she couldn’t always reciprocate, she appreciated it a lot. We’re more in contact now than we were pre-baby and it’s been worth every bit of flexibility on my end.

    It’s a lot harder with a friend *group* but ultimately, either the friendship is strong enough to withstand a blunt conversation of figuring out people’s needs or it isn’t. I wish, I so much wish, I had been more straightforward with Friend 1 sooner. Every time I’m honest with her things turn out well (go figure, haha) and if your friends are good ones, it’ll be the same. If not, well, at least you know.

  45. Anon said:

    I have done almost exactly what the captain advises – and it was fine!

    I value in person interaction and online; I wish I saw my friends more irl and use daily texting with internet friends to make up for the lack of social contact. So I do value an active group chat. Like you, I’m busy and get a lot of work notifs on my phone too.

    Only thing was, much as I loved my group chat friends as people, I absolutely chafe at random “thought you might like this” link-dropping (I get why people do it! And I still hate it!) and they had plenty of mutual interests I didn’t share. I’d get a notification, get excited that my friends wanted to talk to me or were in some heated convo I could join, and then it would turn out to be some meme I’ve already seen or an hours long convo about an anime I don’t care about.

    More power to them, and I’d never get angry AT them for having interests, but I just found it more frustrating than anything else. Muting wasn’t enough, it just left me with a hundred messages I didn’t want to read. So I left. They could ask me why although I don’t think more than one person really did – I think I said something like “it was hard to keep up with.”

    And nothing bad happened.

    I kept up with them in DMs and prompted them to talk about things I had something to say about. (LW, have you tried that? Would you want to text them if you felt you’d get more value from the conversation?)

    I went to game nights etc as I wanted to and had time. We all still liked each other, so I was still invited. It was really NBD.

    But also if you leave and then it turns out never hearing from them is just relieving and you never actually want to DM them or every time you invite them out they badger you about the group chat… Consider how much they are actually your friends.

    Side note, if anyone knows how to get people to stop sending me random meme links, let me know. Telling people directly and then not responding has yet to work. LOL

  46. I relate to this so much!! For a while I was a part of a friend group Slack, which was nice in some ways because it could be split into infinite channels that were generally pretty well contained, so I only had to engage with the conversation about blockchain when I specifically wanted to (i.e. never). However, most of the other folks who were part of this Slack work tech jobs! Which means they’re literally on their computer all day long. I, on the other hand, was running programs at a museum and was only at my computer for part of the afternoon. I can see how others in the group could find it hard to imagine why I wasn’t able to engage at any moment (many of these folks were not the best at remembering that there are other types of professions, but that’s a different gripe), and luckily (?) there was no passive aggression about my not being online all the time, just indifference. Great!

    What I found worked better for me was to A) Selectively check in on the channels I was actually interested in (which included the logistics-type one where people made plans to actually see each other in person) and B) start up individual chats with people I ACTUALLY wanted to be in constant conversation with – I’d much rather have an ongoing chat with one person at a time, maybe two if I REALLY like them both. And I saw most of these people at gatherings pretty regularly anyway, and I can manage small talk with people – who maybe aren’t my favorite ever – in person much better than I can in text. You may not be surprised to learn that the people I maintained ties with after moving away were the folks who consistently chatted with me behind the scenes, as it were.

  47. Fleet said:

    Here’s what I would do.

    1) Spend time cultivating other friendships. If you already have a few other friendships you like, nurture them. If you don’t have other friends you’d like to hang out with or invite to things, perhaps try putting yourself in situations where friendships can arise. Maybe join a tennis club, or a book club, or volunteer at a place you like. Whatever suits your particular interests.

    2) Organize a couple of casual get togethers with mixed groups. Nothing super formal. Maybe a board games night. Maybe an outing to see a local festival. Invite a couple of non-groupchat friends and a couple of groupchat friends. Try this a few times with different combinations. Sometimes, for casual events, people can be flaky about RSVPs. In that situation, I either pick an activity that at least one other person is definitely going to show up for, or else something that I’d be perfectly happy to do on my own.

    3) Drop out of the group chats. Let them know that you enjoy hanging out with them, but aren’t able to keep up online. And then continue to spend your time doing the things you like, while sometimes inviting them to these things. If some of these friends consistently decline, then it’s time to move on. If some of them do show up and/or issue counter-invitations, then you can build your friendship from there.

    The goal with this is to show that you want to be a friend without having to be part of the “group chat friend group”. People who are friends with each other can have different overlapping friend groups. You don’t all have to be seven friends who are all equally close with each other. It’s not necessarily wrong that they wanted to include you in this way of interacting. However it is wrong that they assume the worst of you in your motivations to not take part. And it’s unkind of them to be snarky with you when you *do* try to take part.

    “Friend group cultures” are a real thing, and it sounds like the culture of this friend group is not conducive to you. While I agree with the Captain that you shouldn’t judge them for doing friendship wrong, neither should all six of them gang up on you and tell you that you are doing friendship wrong. You can set the tone of your interactions by opening up your interactions to a broader group hangout with people outside this specific friend group. This will make it clear that you’re not waiting on the edges of their group, pleading for approval. You’re willing to be their friend, and the door is open, but they have to step through it. (And they’re damn lucky to have the opportunity to step through it!)

  48. Tortoise said:

    Last year, two different friends complained to me I don’t give them updates about my life in between meetups. I hadn’t realised that was expected of me, and i kind of balked internally at this expectation. (“What? I need to maintain some broadcasting news channel about my life while THEY are too busy to hang? EFF that!). But that thought was getting me nowhere so I thought about how to make this better.

    My friends are a bit younger and that’s how they communicate in between hangouts. So I adjusted myself a little bit, and now I’m taking a picture of something that caught my eye every week and app it to them (“Look! An acer seedling! SPRING is coming! )
    I keep the big life stuff for IRL exchanges, I prefer it that way. It still feels a little inane to me to app these random pics and findings to my friends, but it works! They’re happy to hear from me, we share some small talk about “SPRING is coming” and my friends feel seen and thought of.

    This only works when youur friends are ok with low level adjustments toward their expectations though. When you have to adjust so much to the groups style you have to bend over backwards to fit in, it might be time to find people who are a better match…

  49. Lil Fidget said:

    I have this issue so much when I’m dating, as a lot of new-dating-partners-just-getting-to-know-each-other can revolve around texting, and texting is just not my Best Thing. I’m happy to exchange texts once a day with people I love, I struggle to do even that much with people I don’t know very well, and a lot of prospective partners are quick to jump into the All Day Stream Of Consciousness conversation. There’s no right or wrong, but at some point I have to say, “sorry, I’m not great at texting but I’m excited to see you Friday!” with little hints like, “I don’t keep my phone on me all day” or “sorry, phone was in the other room, didn’t see these until just now.” I will honestly add that sometimes the person breaks up with me (well, ghosts me, whatever) over this – which is their prerogative! We’ve got to be true to ourselves.

  50. Chechina said:

    I literally say to good friends, “My ideal friendship time is to see you every 2-3 weeks, face-to-face. Texts to me are for figuring out logistics or to send you a picture of an especially cute puppy.” I have tried to fake it, but, honestly, friendships where I have to pretend something stop being friendships. It doesnt mean other people are wrong or too needy, or too dismissive. Theyre just different. You dont have to be friends with every pleasant person you meet.

  51. Drummerdan1984 said:

    I went through a similar-ish problem with my work when they wanted me to Join the team Facebook group, where they would discuss work stuff, outside or work (that I hated discussing because I wanted to leave my call center customer hatred at work when I left) or various other things, but i declined because of a past Facebook post that was read by a coworker that they found offensive when we were off the clock and I nearly got fired for it.

    When I came into work they would then discuss work things that were discussed off the clock on three Facebook group and would get the same kinds of responses, like asking people to keep work stuff at work was too much and rude, and then rude again when I had a right to be informed of said work stuff when we’re ACTUALLY at work! Lol.

    Ive had friends get equally as offended for unfriending them or blocking their constant stream of consciousness posts, but told them that blocking the ability to see every waking thought isn’t equal to hating you or not wanting to catch up in person.

  52. Advice for dipping into the group chat.

    Don’t say “How are you?” or questions like that. It is asking someone to repeat something they have already written. It is likely to feel like you are asking them to extra work, because you don’t want to do the work of reading yourself.

    Instead, give updates. It doesn’t have to be the ‘small’ stuff they post, can be “learned a weird fact about snakes!” or your opinion on some news item.

    That way you will be contributing to the chat, instead of asking the chat to contribute more.

    (This is based on a theory I have about conversational styles which I will post below:
    ————————————————–

    There are two kinds of conversationalists, askers and offerers. Everyone knows about the first type: they like to be asked lots of questions about themselves, and if they like you, they’ll ask questions about you.

    All dating advice tends to be targeted at this type.

    But an ‘offerer’ would consider this an interrogation. Their preferred way is to offer up information about themselves, and have you offer information about yourself.

    e.g. they’ll say “I like x because y…” (they’ve revealed personal information and then left a pause which allows you to contribute your own response but doesn’t force you to, because there’s no direct question).

    When an offerer and an asker go on a date, the asker will consider the offerer rude for only talking about themselves and not taking any interest in them. The offerer will consider the asker rude for demanding information about them while not offering any about themselves.

    An offerer sees talking about yourself as being vulnerable and will expect the other person to do their fair share.
    An asker sees talking about yourself as arrogant and expects the other person not to do too much.

    Offerers and askers view the the opposite part of conversation (answering vs asking) as the “work” part, and so their ideas about what it’s polite to do the most of are also opposite.

    It’s important to know which kind of conversationalist you are, and to recognise what kind your conversation partner is, before you write the other person off as a rude or boring.

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