A Lesson in Group Text Etiquette—to Send to All Your Friends

·4 min read

There are more than a half-dozen group texts in my phone, from my gaggle of college friends who share weird and random things we come across, to my family chat, where we regularly blast out takeout orders or Target run requests.

But sometimes navigating all those group texts can be challenging—as I discovered when I accidentally woke my sister well past her bedtime with a dumb text to our larger family group chat. With a wider audience, it becomes much easier to get yourself in trouble.

The solution? "Follow the three core values, respect, honesty, and consideration," says etiquette expert Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Protocol. "You need to be respectful of everyone who's in the group." You'll be a group text MVP if you follow these rules.

Keep it to people you know

It's all too easy for people to keep adding in new members, but keeping the circle tight makes sense. "Everyone should know each other at least," Swann says. "If you have no dealings with each other, the group is probably a little too large."

Think about the purpose of the group when you're deciding who to include—if it's the bridal party text string, you may not need to include the parents of the bride and groom (or even the bride and groom themselves), as they may not need or want the details of the bachelorette party plans.

Only post things that are meant for everyone in the group

If you have something to share with only one or two members of the group, it's time for a sidebar conversation. "Remember it is a group message, so whatever information you're sharing should be meant for the entire group," Swann says. "If you end up in a side conversation with an individual, take it outside of the group text."

Watch the time zones—and bedtime habits

Be careful about texting in the evening or early morning hours, especially if you have people in different time zones—that midnight text from you may wake someone at 3 a.m. across the country.

Mute or leave if you need to

Sometimes, the group text isn't working for you—whether it's because you're having disagreements with your fellow texters, or you have too much on your plate to keep up with the text strings. You can either completely leave or mute the text to give yourself some breathing room. But either way, do it quietly.

"Leave discreetly, but let the person who takes on a leadership role in the text know that you have left the text," Swann says. "That way you don't ghost someone."

Be careful about burning bridges with a scathing departure text to the group, especially if you only have a beef with one or two people. "Unless you have a desire to end your relationship with everyone in that group, the goal should be to maintain relationships," Swann says. "It's difficult to do that if you've offended people on the way out."

Post with a purpose

No one likes to get spammed with dozens of unnecessary texts, so think before you post—that's the whole basis of group text etiquette. "Bottom line, stick to the topic at hand," Swann says. "This is not a social media profile, where you post what you're doing in your life in the same way as you would on Instagram or Twitter. We don't need that sort of update."

A Technical Group Chat Cheat Sheet

Here's how to navigate your group text like a pro on an iPhone.

How to add someone to your group text:

  • Open the last message from your group chat.

  • Tap on the group of contacts at the top of the thread

  • Tap "Info"

  • Tap "Add Contact" then input the number of the person you'd like to invite.

Note: If it's an established group chat, you might want to post a quick note saying you're planning to add that person to make sure you don't get any blowback for adding someone new.

How to mute a group chat so you don't have to leave:

  • Open the last message from your group chat

  • Tap on the group of contacts at the top of the thread

  • Tap "Info"

  • Toggle over "Hide Alerts" so you don't see texts

Note: If you do go on mute for an extended period, just follow Swann's advice and let someone know. "People expect you to engage and be involved in the conversation, so you should let them know you're not engaging."

How to leave a group chat:

  • Open the last message from your group chat

  • Tap on the group of contacts at the top of the thread

  • Tap "Info"

  • Tap "Leave This Conversation" if you want to leave a group text permanently.

Note: Don't make a big fuss about leaving—even if it's because you're mad about what's happening on the text. You may want to leave a brief note if it's for a personal reason. "You can bow out gracefully," Swann says. "You can leave the door open for returning once you get on the other side of it."

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