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Social Media or Group Texting? Which One is More Damaging?4 min read

Both are toxic. But what should we do about it?
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group texting
Photo credit: Raw Pixel

You’ve probably seen it before on one of your group text threads…

…a seemingly innocuous text from one of your friends or family members.

Something like…

“We’re so excited we had an amazing time in Bora Bora! Check out these amazing pics!!”

Or…

“Just couldn’t be more proud of our son’s report card after his first year in private school! Check it out!!”

And no doubt your first reaction was an eye-roll, before you simply brushed it off and went back to your day.

The thing is, it happens all the time.

And it’s only getting worse.

Not long ago, I read a fascinating book recounting the adventures of Lawrence of Arabia.

In it, the author casually dismissed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the catalyst for war.

As he explained, the first world war did not begin with the assassination of the Archduke but instead with ‘a thousand cuts’.

You could call them micro-aggressions.

And today, group texting is providing a flourishing ground for micro-aggressions.

Now, I don’t think we’re headed into civil war anytime soon. But what I do see is that people are increasingly unaware of the impact of their words and increasingly antagonistic toward each other.

And if recent political elections are any indication, the pace and scale of micro-aggressions are rapidly intensifying.

Is group texting to blame?

Not exclusively, no.

But it sure is causing a lot of small cuts.

Of course, the real question is, “What do we do about it?”

Because we’ve all been dealing with the negative impacts of social media — a medium that limits our collective ability to have healthy discourse.

Group texting is just a more personal form of social media.

So…

Which one is more damaging: Social media or group texting?

Our collective ability to navigate relationships in a healthy way has been severely stunted due to social media.

After all, why is it that most sales people — those we consider to have decent social skills — almost exclusively use LinkedIn, not Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snap or even Twitter?

It’s because, intuitively, they know how much social media damages relationships more than helps.

And maybe salespeople aren’t great anecdotes in this case, but you get the point.

When we’re talking about relationships with those closest to us, group texting can have a profoundly more negative impact than social media.

Why?

Because the conversations are deeper, more personal, and still fail to communicate all the wonders of human-to-human connections that phone calls and in-person get-togethers afford us.

Group texting, then, is a breeding ground for unmet expectations, incorrect assumptions, and an inside look at what people are really like, whether those perceptions are right or not.

And it’s usually just one or two people — “him” or “her” — on a thread that can ruin everyone else’s experience of group texting.

So we all just stay quiet, not wanting to say anything to “that guy” in an effort to preserve the relationship.

Yet if many of us continue to put up with “that guy” on our threads who — whether knowingly or unknowingly — continues to be, well, “that guy”, then the negative effects of group texting will continue to linger with us indefinitely.

What are we to do?

It’s simple, really…

How about just mute the thread?

You could, but it doesn’t really solve the core issue: eliminating micro-aggressions altogether.

Because while you and I are muting the heck out of negative threads, the only real consequence is that other people on those threads will start believing that you and I don’t care about them, progressively degrading our relationships with everyone on the thread, almost imperceptibly, at a micro level.

So, again…

What are we to do?

Fortunately, the answer to all this really is quite simple:

Let’s just all quit group texting and social media together.

Now, I’m not a fan of quitting anything.

But I’m willing to to make an exception when something or someone is negatively affecting my life.

Perhaps you agree.

Because, as Dr. Caroline Leaf said, “You are not obligated to have relationships with unhealthy people just because they are your family/friends.”

Okay, so we can quit social media. Many of us have already.

In fact, have you ever heard of the 90/9/1 rule?

Social media marketers have.

It’s similar to the 80/20 Pereto Principle yet, backed by data, explains the breakdown of engagement by social media users…

90% of social media users post only 1% of the time. 9% of social media users respond to the 1% of social media users who post 90% of the time.

Simply put, 90% of us barely use social media at all. Because we’ve seen the harmful effects.

But quitting social media altogether?

Well, that’s another thing. Because for the vast majority of us, FOMO (fear of missing out) is just too compelling a reason to stay engaged every now and then.

As for quitting group texting altogether?

That’s a daunting proposition too.

Because I love people (probably you too), especially those we’re closest to, who just happen to show up in an unexpectedly negative way in our group texts.

And that’s probably why we haven’t quit group texting yet.

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