The Gryphon explores the pros and cons of group chats on social media forums, their effects upon friendships, mental health, and our collective social interaction.
Group chats with people you know well are wholly unlike the chats you have for, say, the group presentation for that module you don’t care too much about. The chat name probably stems from a joke from a night out over a year ago, and the number of GIFs and memes, if printed onto paper, could easily produce a juicy 600-page book.
Whether you’re a fresher or not, being a part of a group chat on various social media platforms plays a big part in the way we now choose to communicate. Group chats can be a great way of staying in touch with multiple friends, colleagues, and family members without having to put in too much effort. However, they can also be a source of social anxiety or F.O.M.O (Fear Of Missing Out), and, indeed, seem to make us even more distant from each other than ever.
There are a range of positives to group chats. Most obviously is the small amount of effort it takes to stay in touch with a group of friends, and especially the ease with which it allows you to immerse yourself in different friendship circles. However, in this way, there is an inescapable level of isolation to group chats. You may be someone who always reads the chat, but rarely contributes; you may be someone who sometimes leaves one too many messages unread; you may be someone who sends too many messages. Whatever the case, it’s easy to find yourself being heckled by other members of the group and, at worst, experiencing a degree of social anxiety.
” although social media chats are an excellent medium to stay connected with people wherever we are and at any time, as well as organising a place and time to meet up with friends, it is all too often we find that we are ‘too busy’ to meet up in person.”
According to student mental health charity, Student Minds, 75 percent of students experiencing mental health difficulties talk to their friends about their mental health, demonstrating just how important having a safe space to talk to friends either in a group or individually can be. In contrast, only 25 percent of students who think they may be experiencing mental health issues would seek support or help from friends and only 26 percent from their families: the same amount who would also seek help from a GP. Therefore, staying in touch with friends and family is crucial for having strong support networks, regardless of your mental health situation.
Mental health charity, Mind, state that as students are at a higher risk of mental health problems, the lack of a reliable support network can contribute to increased risk of mental health problems emerging at university. In terms of social media, group chats may get in the way of people being able to openly talk about mental health and get the support they need, as they are part of a largely virtual, rather than realistic, social network.
These kinds of issues, namely to do with mental health, which may not be immediately evident from using social media, could arguably be one of the its most negative traits. As we are increasingly encouraged to stay more and more in contact online, we seem to have less and less opportunity, or rather willpower, to truly express ourselves. Our newfound ability to edit, delete, and react to everything we post has seen us lose the benefits of having conversations in person with friends and loved ones.
So although social media chats are an excellent medium to stay connected with people wherever we are and at any time, as well as organising a place and time to meet up with friends, it is all too often we find that we are ‘too busy’ to meet up in person. The group chat instead becomes our only means of ‘meeting’- a saddening thought concerning our increasing reliance on technology.
” although relationships change naturally, the role of technology has also altered how we view the effort we appear to put into maintaining friendships- a perspective which can at times not entirely match reality”
All in all, being at uni and aiming to stay in touch with family and friends from home can, from time to time, mean a lot of effort. Although relationships change naturally, the role of technology has also altered how we view the effort we appear to put into maintaining friendships- a perspective which can at times not entirely match reality. Group chats are an easy way to stay in contact with groups of people we know without too much hassle and time. But they can hide a multitude of changes in the way we are now communicating with one another- that is, by reading conversations instead of having them, subtly changing friendship group dynamics, and perhaps discouraging us from taking the time to catch up with the people we care about in person or, indeed, one to one.
It is worth remembering that it is important to make sure we make time to connect with one another on- as well as offline.
For mental health support at Leeds, please contact Student Services at 0113 343 8877.
[Images: Robert Cairns, Shutterstock]