Imagine: It's a dark and stormy night. You're lying in bed, awaiting the sound of your teenager returning home after a long night at work. They're running late, and you're trying not to think the worst. You have to get up in a few hours, and stop fighting the urge to sleep. You begin to doze off ...
DING! VOOOOOP! DING!
Your smartphone is by the bed—on, volume turned up—ready to tell you when your kid calls with car trouble, or that they're staying with a friend because the streets are flooded.
You look at the screen, and it says "OK." An innocent comment from a random member of a group text message someone pulled you into several hours before. You look at the phone, annoyed and half-asleep, uttering "bad words" to the unthinking person who just sent the two-letter group response text. You don't even hear your teenager pulling into the driveway, safely home.
Group texts fall into the same category as "reply to all" in an email. They have their place, but should be used sparingly. There are a number of uses for the group text feature on our smartphones. If trying to organize a meeting or market an event, it works great. If you're at a conference and want to be sure your group meets at a certain place for lunch, it's perfect. If there is a sense of multi-recipient urgency that can't wait for an email, a phone call or similar communication, it's alright.
When responding to the sender of the group text (if a response was requested), text that person back individually. Items best saved for conversation (i.e., how interesting the speaker was, how you can't believe the hotel ran out of coffee, or how delicious the fish was at dinner), well, save them for conversation or a direct text.
There is a residual effect to the group text. I recently received a reply-to-group from an unfamiliar number and, upon a closer look, realized it was a carryover from an event last January. The person likely didn't mean to invite six people to a romantic rendezvous with their wife (who had been included on the original text for professional reasons). We were all subscribed to an intimate conversation that we hadn't wanted to be part of, simply from a group message from several months before. It made for a bit of awkwardness and a few chuckles.
In doing a little research online, there are three common rules with group texting:
- Unless it's an "opted-in" reminder for an event, the people should all know each other.
- It's OK to ask to be omitted from a thread—either temporarily (if you're out of pocket for a bit) or permanently.
- Respect the requests of others to be omitted from the thread or future group texts from you.
Our industry is made up of a lot of "people people." That said, some things are better in a group-and some are better person-to-person.