I kill group chats (and other social anxieties)

cn: social anxiety

I swear, emojis will be the death of me. As if I wasn’t already an unforgivably overzealous user of exclamation marks, those deceivingly innocuous little faces with their little mouths scream to all my online acquaintances that I do, indeed, possess zero levels of chill.

I’m a shy person, but something about having a keyboard at my fingertips gives me a very ill-placed overconfidence in my social prowess (see: this entire blog). With online messaging, you lose the awkward difficulty of working out when it’s prime time for you to jump into a physical conversation, and no matter how quiet and shaky your voice is, the font size of everyone’s words on a screen is the same. Ah, the internet – the great equaliser of the digital democracy.

Ah, the internet – the great equaliser of the digital democracy.

Nope.

Who are you, upside down smiley face? What are you trying to say?

Because what is most definitely not lost in the move from physical to virtual conversation is the excruciatingly uncomfortable silence after yet another miscalculated attempt at banter. Is there anything more painful than two blue ticks on the last message you sent, the group chat’s final judgment of a message fallen so flat it isn’t even worthy of a banal ‘haha’? And rationally, you know that no one really cares, but that doesn’t stop it from being mortifying. At least in person, someone can sweep the blank stares under the carpet with a ‘so anyway…’ But whatsapp offers no such mercy. If you’re really skilled like me, no-one will ever respond again, leaving that little void of the internet in dead conversation until the end of time. Another chat to add to your long list of online conversational casualties.

I’m not exaggerating – I’ve killed almost every group chat I’ve ever been in, and I do not know how or why! And the most mysterious thing is that in spite of the clear and very unfavourable evidence against me, I can’t shut up! I just can’t stop myself from word-vomiting whatever crap comes into my head into my phone, for some reason deciding that this time it’s definitely something that warrants sharing with the group. I’m growing rather weary of my preposterous behaviour, and yet, incomprehensibly, I carry on.

Is there anything more painful than two blue ticks on the last message you sent, the group chat’s final judgment of a message fallen so flat it isn’t even worthy of a banal ‘haha’?

As I said before, it’s that elusive faith in my social skills that appears exclusively when my phone is in my hands. I’m all for being confident in yourself, but for a person with social anxiety, significant underperformance in the face of high self-expectations is no good thing. Cue at least a day of embarrassed flustering and promises that I’ll never type ever again. But there I go again, caught up in the flurry of virtual chatter, sending out yet more unnecessary commentary. And as the grey ticks fade to blue, I sigh in exasperation at my folly and roll my eyes in time with the vicious cycle that has begun again. Honestly, if it weren’t so tragic, it would be quite a remarkable phenomenon. 

Apt.

I clearly do not understand the niceties of modern communication, and I am perfectly aware that this is not the biggest problem in my life. But I still get actual, legitimate social anxiety from it – butterflies flutter in my stomach as I’m pressing send, it occupies my mind for more of the day than I care to admit and, weirdly, it sometimes has the same effect as face-to-face social anxiety in properly getting me a little down.

Have I gone insane? Am I a useless Gen Z snowflake with a worrying lack of perspective?

Have I gone insane? Am I a useless Gen Z snowflake with a worrying lack of perspective? Or am I just (naturally) living in a digital age, with all the ups and downs of real life, including the occasional anxiety?

Do you also kill group chats? Perhaps we can all band together in a whatsapp group and vow to leave no message unanswered. Perhaps I should just text my therapist instead and cross my fingers that she replies.

* This was a post mostly for comedy value (you see, I NEVER learn) – while I do genuinely get social anxiety from whatsapp, and I have killed regrettably many group chats, you should (and I do) still definitely back yourself, join in the chatter and send that message – it’s such a small risk to take in the grand scheme of things, and you might make someone smile. More on this life lesson and slightly more serious social anxieties later. 🙂


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