No group chats

That’s the new rule I’m trying to follow.

People are different. Some like being at the center of the widest possible social circle, others just like to keep up with a big social circle. And some, like me, prefer fewer but deeper social connections.

Group chat, like much of social media, is designed for the first two groups. Not just because they’re the heaviest, most reliable users. But also because number of connections (or followers, friends, or people in groups) is an easy metric to calculate and promote.

Depth of those connections is not such an easy metric to devise. And it is naturally capped. It’s hard to have real deep connections with more than a handful of people.

As I continue to clear the noise in my life, this is one more area where I’m making changes. I want a handful of deep connections, and reduce the noise from the many. 

Finding those handful deep ones is a hard, often heartbreaking task. People I want to forge deeper connections with may not be the ones who want the same. Or the same with me. Yet, it’s a task that needs doing.

So, I’m reducing all1 my conversations to 1-on-1. Most people will decide that it’s not worth their time/energy to keep updated with me alone. So the conversations will fall away, and the connections will weaken or drop off entirely2.

A few, I hope, will stick around.

This is a handy filter. Those who take the bother to stay in touch directly, outside of group chats, will have demonstrated that they care about our connection. That’s valuable, to me. I find that a stronger display of caring, than almost anything else. 3.

There’s still that flip side to it – the potential for asymmetry. Those who choose to stay with me may not be the ones I wanted a deeper connection with. However, their commitment is a strong indicator that I need to take a chance on them. Maybe the best friendships we have are the ones we haven’t yet discovered.

And if there are some I really want to stay in touch with, but who choose not to go solo, then there’s always the option of me reaching out to them occasionally to keep the connection alive4.

The experiment began last night. Let’s see how this goes.

  1. There are two group chats that still remain. One is with my parents and sister. I don’t need a display of commitment from them. The other is with Dudley’s parents. We converse enough – Dudley logistics, Jyoti logistics, Costco purchases, etc – on a daily basis that we need a communication channel open. One common factor to these two group chats – no forwards, memes, links, or anything of the sort in them. They are clean, they are focused, they are (near) perfect. 
  2. I’ve already had an experience of this. My closest friends became parents, and forgot to inform me completely. Only months later when I reached out to them to inform them of a development in my life, did they tell me about it. Their honest explanation: we announced on Facebook; We didn’t realise that you weren’t there. Un-said bit: we aren’t close enough anymore for us to care whether or not you know. It hurt, a lot. But in the cost benefit analysis, that pain still comes out tops compared to the cost of being on those social media (for me). 
  3. An example here is two of my relatives – a great-aunt (JA), and a first cousin (PC). PC is a grand networker. She loves having a huge network, with her preferably being at the center of it. Since I don’t use FB or WA, she doesn’t have any means of easy communication with me. So, she mails me once a year on Rakhi. She reaches out on that day to all her cousins, and I make the list. It’s nice, but nothing special. JA, on the other hand, calls me directly. She makes it occasional, probably once a month or two. But she calls me directly, and talks about me, and her. It’s not generic, it’s not a mass mail. It’s direct. It takes effort, and it shows intent. I respond by making her the only relative in the UK that I visit. Only occasionally, but I do visit. 
  4. I already do this. Not being on FB and Whatsapp means most of my friends (from UG and MBA) in India had fallen away. My connection is not important enough to them for them to regularly reach out, off those networks. However, they are important to me. So, I occasionally call them to catch up. Yep, the old-fashioned phone call. 

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