How group chat rules the world
I'm not particularly strong; It doesn't matter what joke I'm the butt of or what dinner I'm invited to. But it's instructive to think about the digital rooms those people are creating. We often get glimpses of such group chats in court filings, with screenshots of iMessage's familiar blue and white bubbles taken and presented as evidence. For example, a series of messages between Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson was one of several chats at issue in Dominion Voting Systems' defamation suit against Fox News. The tone is amusingly familiar; They complain, gossip, co-process the news. Carlson admits something he never said on air: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. “I really can’t wait.” (He sounds like an MSNBC-addicted liberal in 2019!) They complain about Fox affiliates. “My anger at the news channel is palpable,” Ingraham writes. Laughing out loud.” (Softening the sentiment with an awkward digital laugh – she's just like me!) But she also acknowledges the group's potential influence. “I think the three of us have a lot of strength ,” she writes, and then later: “We should all be thinking about how together we can make a difference.”
That “thinking together”, pinging back and forth in real time, moving toward something non-specific but still quite tangible – that's the stuff of group chats. There have always been behind-the-scenes meetings between powerful media figures, but such talks no longer happen in the proverbial smoke-filled room; They occur more frequently and more widely. I know of a group chat in which, among other things, a group of successful men exchange investing tips and sometimes even acts as a de facto investing group. (I'm not in that chat – if I was would I have more money?) There are others in which people's co-processing ultimately led them to break the law to each other – like the January 6 insurrection. , which was also dismissed, numerous group chats appear in court records. According to The Australian Financial Review, Sam Bankman-Fried led a group chat called “WireFraud”. He denies it, but it's funny how easy it is to imagine it being true: where else would a group of tech people coordinate fraud except over chat?
Such chat should not be obviously nefarious. Often their power is an indirect result of weak social bonds, with people battling against each other digitally all day long. The Silicon Valley Bank run last March can be at least partially traced to a group chat of, as described by one member on Twitter, “200+ tech founders.” The person who tweeted it described the familiar experience of seeing stressful messages during bathroom breaks at work; Seeing worrying things about the bank, he canceled a meeting and immediately urged his wife to withdraw his money. Others also followed suit. You'd be surprised what was being said in this “200+ tech founders” group chat before the bank run. If I had to guess, the basic content isn't that dissimilar from my own chats: a jumble of links, a bunch of different conversations that start and stop. I imagine people are complaining about Bay Area housing policies or business recommendations for the latest mushroom-based coffee replacement. Without realizing it, they may have created something together, even if it was undefined – a community based on shared values and interests and hobbies, confirmed by small things every day, even by those who knew them in Hayes Valley. Likes restaurants from. Then someone questions the solvency of the bank, others get a hold of it and the whole thing goes haywire.
People act irrationally all the time based on limited information, but there is something unique and perhaps even unprecedented about the number of influential people acting at this speed, all of their reactions interacting with each other in a digital space. Then back to reality the world sends millions of dollars one way or the other. The dynamics of group chats — who's in them, who's not — can seem like the adult version of kids jockeying for the lunch table. But those dynamics can determine not only who eats where, but also financial events, political events, news of real import. None of these things are ever going to be completely eliminated, and it's all happening at breakneck speed now.
One of my favorite group chats, now defunct, was between me and two friends with whom I was suddenly becoming close. It was called the “Recently Singles Club”, a name chosen as a kind of joke, despite the circumstances that did not seem like a joke to us at all – for me, the painful end of an almost five-year relationship. Defined my adult life. We weren't discussing the realities of our new situations in group chats, although we did a lot in person, sometimes as a threesome over drinks. Looking back at our messages — sent at a high clip during a strange, slightly frantic spring and summer — I see us doing other things: providing each other with a kind of passive and sometimes distracting presence. Which in some ways was very little, a form of persistent low-grade company that was both intermittent and reliable. It was what I could afford: nicknaming each other “Top Gun”, trading gossip and bad music recommendations, arranging mutual listening sessions on Spotify while getting ready for a party – anyone's The virtual version of just sitting next to you in the midst of illness or grief, doing nothing else but being there. Eventually the chat was renamed to reflect that we were no longer alone, at all – some of us were no longer alone at all – and then it mostly died out, replaced by other, larger chats, with various combinations of friends.