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The group-text conundrum

Andria
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SILENT MODE

SILENT MODE? Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with texts coming at us from all parts of our lives. (Illustration: behance.net/runamokstudios)

We have all thought about it: How did we not get lost without Google Maps?

Without the Life360 app, how did we track the whereabouts of our children, or our parents? How long could we go without a check-in before we decided our child had tripped and fallen into the lake and drowned during her morning walk?

Without the Facebook app, how did we know our high school friend we hadn’t seen in 30 years had a fabulous time in Cabo last week?

And how many hours must we have spent on landlines connected to walls, calling individual people to organize a game of golf, or a group vacation, or a PTO project?

Personally, I have no idea. It amazes me that I was ever not able to Find My Friends (meaning my children and mother).

Certainly our lives have been made easier via the smartphones we are now lost without. Who else feels strangely unsettled and untethered upon accidentally leaving your phone at home – or worse, having it fall out of your jeans and into the toilet at the grocery store? Those tiny computers keep us connected to everyone and everything that matters in our lives. Family, friends, bank accounts, emails, even meditation practices. They’re all in our purses and pockets, just a screen-touch away. I don’t want to be disconnected.

That is, until the texts start flying. Then, I cannot – I mean cannot – keep up. Glancing at my phone right now, I have 84 unread texts. That is not good. But between emails and texts and 16 calls a day from my children at college (no cap, in their words), I give up.

To my friends who are more organized or more compulsive, or maybe just in possession of more spare time: I am sorry. It’s not personal. But please, please, please don’t send me “???” when I don’t answer your text within the hour. Or the day. Like I said, I’ve given up. If you really need me, just dial the phone.

And I say this before I even address the topic of group texts, but group-text shame is real.

“I am on so many group texts,” one mom of four little people says. “For example, ‘Boy Moms of 2026,’ ‘Girl Moms of 2026’ since I have boy-girl twins, all of my kids’ sports teams, a 40th birthday party I’m hosting for a friend, a trip I’m taking in April with some moms. If I don’t look at my phone for a solid hour or two hours, like if I go to the grocery store or to my workout class, I’ll get out and I’ll have, you know, 86 texts.” Total coincidence on numbers of unread texts – this mom and I did not coordinate.

“I know a lot of other people experience this too,” she says, “but I find it all so overwhelming. Even one dinner starts a group text!

“I don’t want to be the person who never replies, but when I finally sit down to read them all, I am lost, and then I have to go up to the very top and read the whole exchange.”

My advice: Give yourself a few years, and you might not care as much about being the one who doesn’t reply.

Still, that leaves us with the problem of hitting the wrong button. It happens on social media all the time – we’re stalking Facebook and accidentally “like” our high school boyfriend’s ex-wife’s new husband’s post. There’s no taking that back.

There’s also no taking back the touch of the little text-send arrow, even a split-second after you realize you sent that message to the group instead of the one friend you thought you could trust.

One friend frantically called me a few months ago, wondering what to do after she’d told her entire lunch group of eight that the main organizer needed to lighten up and let someone else decide for once where the group would meet. “Is there a way to recall it?” she wanted to know (she was asking the wrong person). Short of that, “What do I say to make it sound like I’m not actually annoyed and I really like her?” she asked. Beats me. I just let her vent and told her it would all blow over…she just had to stay home for a while.

But we don’t want to stay home. We want to go to lunch…and PTO meetings, and tennis games, and couples’ trips. So please, please, please, keep us on the group texts! Just don’t judge when it seems like we’ve drowned in the lake.

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