Growing apart is an inevitable part of life, but in today's interconnected world this need not mean the end of a friendship. We can keep up with our family and friends with any manner of applications, and we don't even need to go that far; phone calls are still a thing, even though millennials don't make much use of them. Despite not talking on the phone as much, with the advent of social media and the "texting generation," there is quite literally no excuse to not stay in touch with people other than not wanting to. For big groups of friends, this means group chats, late night memes, keeping up with each other en masse. As convenient as it sounds, a group chat is a double-edged sword that can come to represent a group's dynamic as a whole, and comes with its own form of etiquette.
These chats prove a source of stability for big groups that were separated by time, graduation, or circumstance. It's a way to keep in touch with everyone, and be as personal or impersonal as you want. But what happens when a group chat dies? After years of relying on each other for laughs, gossip, and generally keeping friendship afloat, how do we view the death of a group chat in the context of the entire friendship?
It would be nice to think that some of us aren't that shallow, but a lot of times a group chat is the only true form of contact with a specific friend who you may have been close to, just not close enough for continuous one-on-one contact. Even the most meager friendships need not die in today's world, but when the big group chat becomes a hollow shell of its former self, secondary chats begin to form between members, taking the people in the bigger group and isolating them as people you would actually want to talk to. These little splinter-cells blur the line between humorous and unfortunate incidences, as The Hard Times put it in a rye satirical piece that came out on Christmas where a secondary chat is formed to talk shit about a former member that has grown annoying.
Jokes aside, these multiple chats create the possibility of exclusivity in a once inclusive space. It's kind of optimistic to think that a once-large group of people will all remain friends. We drift. We fall apart. We're human. That's inescapable, but we're as isolated as ever despite being able to talk to each other. When a text is the only option you have because you live in New York City and your best friend lives in Texas, time can take a toll on even the deepest friendships, and the isolation of separate chats, as well as the empty echo chamber of a once-thriving 10-person chat are reflections of that.
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves how much effort we all need to, or want to, put into our friendships. The death of a group chat is the virtual version of a group of friends dwindling, and a chat is so much more than just a chat. The late nights staying up and talking to your friends, even if you're by yourself, are important, if isolating, moments.
The kind of stability and ties to the past provided by these chats allow one to take off slowly into a new life, and sometimes letting them die is inevitable, but it's no less sad unless one makes the effort to continue individual friendships and leave the door open to infrequent, in-person group dinners every once in a while, when time and airfare allow it.