It’s a new school year and with that comes—group texts. Group texts, and specifically the app called GroupMe, are incredibly helpful in so many areas of life. You have access to your entire class, entire friend group, all the parents for a child’s entire grade, family members, team members for a work project, all the parents for a specific activity’s carpool—the list is endless.
Don’t understand the instructions the teacher sent home about what to pack for a field trip? Ask GroupMe. Need to swap days for driving to cheer practice? Group text the carpool thread. Can’t find that email telling you what the upcoming dress-up days are? Ask the class GroupMe. New to the school and don’t understand some of the lingo or processes yet? Ask the grade GroupMe.
There is ALWAYS somebody near their phone who is willing—if not downright eager, to respond to you. This is the South; helpfulness is as thick as the humidity. It’s when helpfulness becomes as oppressive as the humidity that we need to review the rules of group texting etiquette.
The following mostly applies to school group texting. I’m assuming that if you’re on a group text with your close friends or family, then you all have your own code for what’s acceptable and will call each other out if someone is being obnoxious—that’s what family is for, right? It’s when you’re on a thread with dozens of other parents, some of whom you know and some you don’t, that things get awkward if a few people aren’t picking up on the social cues of group texting courtesy. Consider this your Guide to School Group Texting:
1. It’s Called a ‘Group’ Text for a Reason. If you have a question for one person—text that one person. Or go old-school and call them on the phone. Sharpen those rusty verbal communication skills and have a conversation that doesn’t involve your thumbs—or the other 30 class parents who don’t need to be privy to your private conversation or subjected to the alerts that come with your plans to pick up Timmy from Billy’s house after they play this afternoon.
2. Asked and Answered. If someone asks a question, and then someone else answers the question adequately—you are not needed. Isn’t that great? We know you just want to be helpful too, but it is not necessary and you do not get group-text brownie points for answering an already-answered question.
3. Resist Pointless Replying. You need not respond if you do not know the answer or cannot assist in some way. It’s so nice to know that you would help if you could, but it is not necessary. When one person says, ‘I wish I had extra uniform shorts to loan you but I gave all my extras away last year!’ then someone else feels obligated to say, ‘Me too!’ which prompts another mother to offer ‘The uniform exchange is in a month—I know that doesn’t help right now though, sorry I don’t have any!’ and then before you know it we are all suffocating under a text-slide of empathetic, but unhelpful, dinging and buzzing alerts. Resist the urge to reply and then when someone chimes in with a, ‘I do! I’ll call you in a bit to arrange getting them to you!’ you can tap the little heart next to their comment to indicate that you ‘love’ their helpfulness and we can all move on with our lives.
4. Thumbs Down on Excessive Thumbs Up. Unless requested—you don’t have to say ‘okay’ or give a thumbs up to every bit of info shared. If the grade mom texts, ‘The homecoming t-shirts will be coming home tomorrow,’ you do not need to do anything. Seriously—it’s that simple. If she says, ‘The class party location has changed—please reply that you have seen this so I know everyone is aware,’ then you may reply, ‘Okay,’ or maybe, ‘Got it!’ if you’re perky like that. Unless ask for—the favor of your reply is not needed.
5. Read before you Reply. In the same vein as #2 and #3, read the previous replies before you respond—this issue may have already been handled. You may find that 5 people beat you to the punch and you can stand down, soldier. But if someone does reply with the same answer that 5 other people gave because they didn’t read the previous replies first—don’t point it out, nobody likes a GroupMe hall monitor. Let it go, they’ll probably notice later—and then they’ll probably reply ‘Oops—didn’t see that everyone had already answered your question, Lauren!’ Which will fall under the purview of #3 but let. it. go. Let’s all do our part to not contribute to the excess of electronic noise in our lives. Don’t make my phone ding more than it really, really needs to.
6. What Time is It? Basic rules of common courtesy still apply. Don’t text after 9, maybe 10 P.M. at the latest. Not everyone sleeps with their phones on Do Not Disturb (although, it’s worth considering) and not everyone wakes with the sun. While people may be awake at 6:00 A.M.—they probably don’t want to GroupMe at dawn. Give them until 7:00 to have coffee if you can.
7. Stay On-Topic. If you are in a GroupMe for the 4th grade boys—don’t text about the best place to find bed linens. If you are on a thread with the Pre-K4 Hippo Class—that is not the place to ask about where everyone gets their car serviced because you are NOT going back to that place across town that was SO rude to you the last time. Not on-topic. Call a friend, check Yelp reviews, Ask Jeeves for crying out loud but don’t make us all weed through off-topic chatter to get to the important stuff, like an early dismissal from school.
8. Don’t be a Downer. I can turn on the news for my daily intake of negativity and I can talk to my 10-year-old for a dose of eye-rolling exasperation. If you need to complain—this is not the place for it. Unless you want to pay me to be your unlicensed, unskilled therapist, then save the venting and processing for close friends and professionals. Our phones control enough of our lives already. Don’t give it the power to affect people’s moods as well—unless you’re going to offer succinct gratitude or encouragement. But also, don’t feel like you have to reply to every text of that nature either. Use that little heart to tell the commenter (and JUST the commenter) that you liked their text of thanks.
9. Channel Your Inner-Kindergartner. We’ve all heard some version of the following questions that kids are taught in Kindergarten: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it helpful? There is literally no area of life that those don’t apply. GroupMe is no exception and I would add: Is it necessary? If people are not kind, accurate/true, or helpful when needed (remember—it’s not helpful if 3 people already said it, it’s just annoying), then group texts cease to be beneficial because everybody puts it on mute except for the ‘I’m not sure! I wish I could help!’ folks and as sweet as they are—group texts need us all in order to work. They need the vulnerable question-askers and the exuberant helpers and the finder-outers and the looker-uppers and the succinct encouragers and, yes, even the slightly snarky Guide to Group Texting writers to remind us to use common sense and kindness so we can get the kids to school, at the right time and with the right stuff without screaming ‘SHUT UP, ALREADY!’ at the incessant dinging of our phones before we’ve even left the house. It’s a bad look in front of the kids.
10. Be kind, be helpful, or be quiet. Please and thank you.
Elizabeth Quinn makes her home in Northeast Jackson with her husband Percy and four children.