We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a work meeting and — ding! — a text from Jen about the stimulus bill that just passed. Or maybe you finally get around to watching The Queen’s Gambit and — ding! — Kyle weighs in on what he thinks about it. And then so does Sheena and Rita and Layla.
Yep, it looks like you’re trapped in yet another group text. Your friends are blasting your phone every 30 seconds. Or at least it seems that way.
It’s great to stay in touch with everyone, but trying to stay in touch with all of them at once can be stressful. “Keeping in touch during this pandemic is very important, but it can get quite exhausting,” says Alicia Hough, a corporate wellness expert. Hough offers the permission we’re all seeking when it comes to group texts: “It is totally OK to put your phone down and ignore messages.”
Logically, we know this. But for all the talk about digital addiction and , there’s still . If you don’t respond to the group text, you may feel guilty for being too busy for your friends (or simply uninterested in the stream of memes and GIFs they’re swapping). Ignoring your friends or loved ones might leave you feeling like, well, a bit of an asshole.
There are diplomatic ways to step away from a group text that’s gone awry.
Or maybe not. Maybe you feel strongly about setting boundaries and have come to terms with it as an important form of self-care. Good for you! Wherever you stand on the matter, there are diplomatic ways to step away from a group text that’s gone awry. Here are some options that won’t make you feel like a jerk when leaving that group chat.
Bounce from the group completely
If you have an iPhone, it’s easy enough to simply opt out of a group text, as long as everyone else in the conversation is an Apple user, too. From iMessage, touch the “i” info menu icon in the upper right of your screen, then tap “Leave This Conversation.” That’s it — you’ve bounced! Everyone else in the group text will be able to see that you’ve left and you’ll no longer see their group messages. Revel in your peace and quiet.
If you’re an Android user, you may not have this option from your Messages app. If you want to bounce, ask the group directly to start a new thread without you in it. There’s no need to feel guilty for leaving. But if it’s a serious conversation or if your friends are just waiting on you for answers, the least you can do is give them a heads up in the group conversation.
For example, let’s say your friend just lost her job and everyone in the group text is there to offer support. Yeah, it’s kind of a jerk move to just say nothing and leave. So before you bounce, offer your condolences in the group, then reach out to your friend directly and see if she wants to chat about it one-on-one.
Mute your group conversations
If there are Android users in the group text or you have an Android phone yourself, you can’t leave the group text, but you can always mute it. You’ll still see new texts, but you won’t get that annoying chime every 30 seconds. Then, you can catch up with the conversation when you’re ready. Android phones vary, but generally speaking, you’ll navigate to your messaging app’s conversation settings (those three little dots on the upper right corner of the conversation screen) and there should be an option to hide alerts or turn off notifications. From iPhone, If you want to mute rather than leave the group text entirely, touch the “i” icon and then turn on the “Hide Alerts” button.
A little communication about why you’re leaving can go a long way and keep people from taking it personally.
Again, a heads up is nice. Tell your friends you’re going to mute the convo, but you’ll catch up with them later. Or tell them you don’t have time to keep up throughout the day, so you’re going to kindly bow out of this particular group chat. If they need to reach you for anything important, they can text you individually or give you a call.
And no, you shouldn’t feel like the asshole for muting or even leaving the group text. Our digital lives encroach on our offline lives way too often, and we all need to set better boundaries. But a little communication about why you’re leaving can go a long way and keep people from taking it personally.
Set time limits for text messaging
Hough suggests that setting time limits for group texting can be helpful, too. That way you can socialize without letting it take over your life. If you’re an Apple user, you can play with your Screen Time options under Settings. Android users have Digital Wellbeing options under their Settings.
“From there, you can set limits for apps you want not to be available during your downtime, a time limit to when you want your downtime to be, and even communication limits,” Hough says. “I do this and personally it does a lot for my mental health.”
You can also choose to let certain people contact you even during your “quiet hours.” That way, if there’s a family emergency or something, people can still get a hold of you.
And once again, it’s important to communicate those boundaries. If you feel like a jerk for setting time limits with your friends, be upfront about it. This is especially important if you’ve simply left the group text — they could still be texting you without realizing it. Don’t leave the people who care about you hanging.
On the flip side, you should expect the same from your friends. If they don’t respond to your text messages immediately, keep in mind that they have their own boundaries, too. Don’t take it personally if it takes your friends and loved ones a little longer to keep in touch.
Our digital lives make it easier than ever to stay in touch, which, during a pandemic, has been a lifesaver. Of course, it’s always possible to have too much of a good thing. And if you need a little alone time — or just time not staring into your phone screen — there’s no need to feel guilty about it.