Majority of Americans, especially women, feel overwhelmed by group texts

Nov 21, 2023, 11:31 AM | Updated: 12:05 pm

EAGLE MOUNTAINAs a busy working mom of three young children, Mindy Dahlquist never stops going. And neither does her phone. Group texts ping all day, whether she’s creating power point decks or washing baby bottles.

“I can be in the middle of a live webinar and my phone is zzzz, zzzz, zzzz,” Dahlquist said.

No wonder she had 210 unopened text messages on the day we spoke with her.

“You start to feel that panic, that I need an assistant just to see these things,” she joked.

Mindy Dahlquist working on her computer.  (Aubrey Shaffer, KSL TV)

Many people can relate to that sense of panic. New research by Secure Data Recovery found 66% of Americans feel overwhelmed by group texts. Seventy-two percent of women feel that way.

Adding to the pressure, almost half of group texts come from our closest family members and friends. So, navigating the overload without ruining relationships requires effort.

“It can be quite overwhelming sometimes,” said Mylynn Felt, assistant professor of communication at Weber State University. She has researched social media effects and confirms, the science of information overload is real.

Thomas Farley, a national etiquette expert also known as “Mister Manners,” agrees group texts require careful management.

“They can be used for good, or they can be used to annoy, without us even realizing it,” Farley said.

Do I have to respond?

The Secure Data Recovery survey found 20% of respondents felt they always have to respond to group texts.

Majority of Americans, especially women, feel overwhelmed by group texts. (Aubrey Shaffer, KSL TV)

“It’s almost like the new age of someone knocking on the door and you feel like you have to open it,” Hannah MacDonald said. 

She is also a busy working mom, who has 227 unread messages.

Farley says whether you must respond depends on the number of people in the group text.

“I would liken it to a dinner party versus a cocktail party,” he said. “If you’re at a dinner party, you’re there to contribute, to comment, to be considerate. If you’re at a cocktail party, you can probably ghost after you show your face and not many people will notice.

Keep in mind that no response, is still a response.

“We always say, you cannot not communicate. If you decide I’m going to hold back and refuse to respond, then the message you’re sending is, I don’t engage with this,” Felt said.

Managing boundaries

The survey shows 34% of people feel trapped and just accept the frustration. But both our experts agree the best way to take control is by setting boundaries.

“By setting those boundaries, it sets expectations of when it would be okay to openly converse or send those kinds of messages,” Felt said.

For example, MacDonald doesn’t open texts until she’s ready to answer them, so she can pay attention to her children in the moment, and the text groups when she can give them her attention.

Hannah MacDonald plays with her daughter in St. George. (Mark Weaver, KSL TV)

We can also use technology to impose boundaries, by learning how to silence notifications and adjust the “focus” section of our phone settings to shut off interruptions temporarily. Users of Apple devices can also remove themselves from text groups, although you won’t have that option if anyone in the group is using an Android phone.

Mister Manners says the solution is less about leaving the group, rather learning to speak up and sharing your concerns — nicely, of course.

“Because candidly, how can those that we’re messaging with know we’re being bothered by something unless we vocalize it?” Farley said.

Dahlquist has used this approach in the past when group texts bombard her during stressful times. She will bow out of a group and re-join the conversation later.

“I can say, guys, I love you, but I can’t be part of this right now,” she said.

Send with care

Sending text messages with care can help ensure you aren’t the annoying link in the group text. The survey identified several pet peeves, including:

Too many texts
Late or early texts
Too many emojis

And 40% of those in the survey admitted sending a group text to the wrong group.

“This could have embarrassing or even disastrous consequences,” Farley said.

Another lesson is to think carefully about when a text isn’t enough.

Dahlquist learned this valuable lesson about group texts right after the birth of her baby. She had hundreds of “thinking of you” texts but felt completely alone.

“Everyone is so present in social media and so present over text messages that we forget to be personal and reach out to our friends and family,” she said.

Yes, group texts are a vital tool in our communication arsenal. But that shouldn’t be our only default. Sometimes technology can’t suffice the need for personal connection.

“If we’re in the same room breathing the same air, that is where the focus should be, not on someone who’s pinging you 3,000 miles away,” Farley said.

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Majority of Americans, especially women, feel overwhelmed by group texts