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The hottest new social media is the messaging app on your phone


Perhaps you've been there. Maybe you got a little busy with your day - working, folding laundry, feeding yourself or the family - and all of a sudden...


RASCOE: ...The group chat is popping off. Now, which one is it? Is it the ones with your college friends? Maybe the one with your work pals? Or maybe it's the dreaded family group chat. We all know it's nice to be in touch with friends and family, but it can also be overwhelming to keep up with hundreds of messages. Faith Hill gets it. She's an editor at The Atlantic and wrote about group chats in her new article titled "Group-Chat Culture Is Out Of Control." She joins us now. Welcome to the program.

FAITH HILL: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

RASCOE: Full disclosure, I heard about this article in my group chat with my friends. That's how I heard about it. And you write that the group chat is now the new social media. Like, why do you think that?

HILL: It's just sort of a weird time with social media right now where X, formerly known as Twitter, is sort of, like, falling apart, and people are moving away from Facebook. It feels like Instagram is, like, mostly ads and kind of mimicking TikTok with recommended video content. And it just feels like that's sort of, like, evolving away from actually, like, using social media to chat with your friends.

RASCOE: Yeah, yeah. But, you know, even though they can be a bit overwhelming, like, group chats, especially, like, during the pandemic, were a way to feel more connected 'cause you could still have these ongoing conversations with people that you, you know, love and care about.

HILL: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, group chats have a lot of amazing features. It would be impossible to just sort of, like, reach out to all these different people separately about, like, every dumb thing that happens in your day, you know, like the cute dog you see on the subway or, like - but when you already have these spaces, like, it's really easy to just sort of casually let all these people know at once about this thing. And then you get that from other people. And it is, like, I think really a space to feel this sort of, yeah, regular, mundane intimacy. And it can almost be like you're going through your day together, which - I think it can be really nice.

RASCOE: And you spoke to some researchers about, like, how to navigate the many group chats and feeling, you know, bombarded with communications and messages. Like, what did they tell you?

HILL: Yeah. I mean, I think the good features about group chats that I was just talking about can also be, like, the very features that make them overwhelming. Like, it's kind of a double-edged sword. And then there's also not really a set etiquette for group chats.


HILL: Some of the researchers I was talking to were saying that, you know, because, like, in the span of history, we haven't had group chats or even just, like, texting for that long, and also because the features keep changing, we just, like, haven't been able to settle on expectations that everyone can agree on.

You know, one thing they talked about in terms of just advice for how to handle this is, like, sometimes you need to just be real with yourself about which group chats matter the most to you. So, you know, someone used this term, like, zombie chats, which are sort of the chats that just keep going even though you are not that interested in them. You know, sometimes, like, if a group chat just has too many people, and it's no longer people that you're close to anymore, that's almost, like, turning into what we were trying to get away from with the social media where it feels, like, crowded and empty at the same time - just, like, sort of public and not as intimate.

RASCOE: So how are you navigating this at this point? Are you lurking? Are you actively engaged in all of the chats or, you know, how are you dealing with it?

HILL: I'm definitely still lurking in some of them. It's funny - after I published this piece, like, you know, it got shared in a bunch of the group chats I'm in, and for some of them, it was like...

RASCOE: Yes (laughter).

HILL: ...I'm calling attention to the fact that I, like, haven't said anything in a while. Like, sorry, guys.

RASCOE: (Laughter) Well, I mean - but that can be better for you to be quiet than you to be talking too much. My friends say that I maybe talk a little too much, but I say they get to - you know, the benefit of all of my thoughts, and that's a benefit in and of itself.

HILL: That's so true. I wish we were in group chats together. I would love it.

RASCOE: (Laughter) Faith Hill is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic. Faith, thank you so much for being with us.

HILL: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
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