A few months ago, I realized that I, an adult human, didn’t know how to leave a group chat. I’m a recovering people pleaser—someone who would rather sacrifice her own comfort than make the people she loves uncomfortable—so it’s no surprise that I found myself in a group chat I eventually wanted to leave. More specifically, I was in a “positivity” group chat with people I respect (and fear a little). At first glance, a chat dedicated to brightening bad days might sound enticing, like a meditation break you can take just by glancing at your phone. But it spiraled quickly into people giving me well-intentioned but unsolicited advice about my productivity, which ultimately gave me an overwhelming sense of dread every time someone pinged me from the chat.
Obviously, if you don’t want to be in a group chat, it would be best to maturely tell the other people in the group and leave, right? Sure, but that’s so much easier said than done. It can feel really intimidating to basically reject other people’s attempts at connecting with you, potentially hurt their feelings, and possibly come across as “difficult.” Especially when, as I mentioned, the urge to please people is basically coded in my DNA.
It took me weeks to even realize that I wanted out. Then, even though the relentless daily chatting was making me anxious, it took me a few more weeks to realize that I had the power to change my own circumstances. Once I caught myself devoting my therapy sessions to ranting about this chat, I knew it was time to take responsibility for my own happiness (or unhappiness) with the group chat. Also, ranting about this wasn’t a good use of my therapy copayment.
I totally understand that this is a pretty niche problem. Not everyone has a difficult time working up the courage to get out of a group chat, no matter who may be on the other side of the screen. But if you’re reading this, you might be similarly nervous about disappointing people and need a little guidance in this situation. So, for the sake of your emotional wellness (and your poor cellphone battery), here’s why I truly recommend distancing yourself from a group chat that’s overstayed its welcome in your messages—plus how to do it.
There are some clear signs it may be time to leave a group chat.
If you, like me, find yourself frustrated or even anxious about your group texts, it might be an indication that you should consider if it’s adding enough to your life for you to stay. This can be difficult because, often, it starts innocently: A friend or family member wants to disseminate information quickly, so they bring random people into one conversation.
De’Jonnae B., 27, says that she’s currently locked in a group chat with all of her family members between the ages of 25 and 36. It was initially created to brainstorm ways that the family could address their finances and pool resources.
“This group chat is now just everyone sending warnings about human trafficking … and them trying to get me to buy streaming services,” De’Jonnae says. “I don’t want it.” After a family member suggested she open an HBO NOW account for the entire group, she stopped responding altogether.
Even though I’m currently grifting HBO GO from a family member, De’Jonnae’s story sounds familiar. Many of the group chats I regularly find myself in are born with the best intentions. Someone shares details about a plan, someone responds to the original texter, and another person chimes in. Suddenly, what was initially a birthday party planning conversation becomes an active space where memes, gossip, and random societal commentary fly back and forth. Depending on the people and messages involved, this can be utterly delightful—or not so much.
You can try muting the group chat, though that can have mixed results.
It’s totally reasonable to try to set boundaries by tinkering with your phone’s privacy and notification settings. Muting a text conversation means you won’t get incessant sounds and pop-up notifications every time someone in your group chat has a thought. But this isn’t foolproof.