Heroes of the 2010s: The Group Chat

Each one feels like small but treasured membership.

Getty

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

The staff of Mother Jones is rounding up the decade’s heroes and monsters. Find them all here.

Throughout the 2010s, one by one, the most popular social media platforms failed their users. There was Twitter’s inability to mount from the outset a forceful opposition to online abuse. Instagram trapped a post-recession generation into a culture of anxiety-fueled online performance, with capitalism reaping profit from those anxieties. Facebook, of course, killed newsrooms and later morphed into one of the biggest threats to democracies all over the world.

But somewhere in between, the quiet rise of the group chat offered a delightful, even necessary break from the garbage. They’re private enough to spare you from morning-after, anxiety-ridden regret yet still social and fun, almost always harmless. Each one feels like small but treasured membership. A coworker somehow wronged you? Alert the chat and someone is bound to tell that coworker to burn in hell; the mood is momentarily uplifted. Burning with dumb gossip that needs to be unloaded somewhere, anywhere? Dump it into a chat. Annoyed with one group chat? Talk shit about it in another—that’s the real gold standard of group-chatting. The moments I love are the most useless ones: memes, anything reinforcing the notion I tell myself of how great it is to be on the old side of millennial, bad outfits, whatever. 

Of course, the group chat has its own bummers. Someone is usually peacocking; it can replace direct, one-on-one interaction. Hell, Facebook now owns the biggest platform of group chats, WhatsApp. But for now, the group chat has accomplished what all those other bad platforms promised to do: connect in an increasingly disconnected, fragmented, god-awful world. The group chat is one of the last redoubts of that old way of being online—it’s where we can surround ourselves with likeminded people without feeling exposed or oversurveilled or commodified within an inch of our lives. Here’s hoping we have a lot less Facebook in our lives in the next decade and a lot more group chats.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.