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06th Jun 2018

The 8 unspoken rules of WhatsApp group chats

Never, under any circumstances, try to explain the contents of your group chat to an outsider

Ciara Knight


There’s little more delightful in this godforsaken world than a decent WhatsApp group. They’re rare and sometimes difficult to maintain, but when you find an absolutely banging WhatsApp group, you must hold onto it for dear life, do you hear me? Nurture it. Protect it. Never let it slip to the bottom of your chat list.

With anything fun, a small number of unspoken rules are completely essential in keeping things ticking over nicely. After all, the best kind of fun is when it’s gently structured and monitored for quality and training purposes.

Behold the eight unspoken rules of WhatsApp group chat etiquette.

1. Don’t take it upon yourself to change the name of the group unless it’s going to be absolutely astounding

The first draft of a WhatsApp group name is usually garbage. It takes a while for everyone to find their feet and get an overall gauge of the vibe that this particular group is going to emit. Something like ‘Ghostbusters Busters’ for a group of ghosts’ WhatsApp chat will usually start things off, but a couple of weeks in they’ll up the ante to ‘Boo Radley Cooper’ or ‘Squad Ghouls’ once the role of the chat and a few inside jokes have been established.

The name of the group chat also can’t be too long. It’s going to be firing notifications to all members every single time a message is sent, so something dumb or lengthy is a criminal offence here. You need to think very carefully before you change the name of the group and even engage in a mass discussion before any decision is made. This isn’t a game. This is 2018 communication and it deserves calm and order. Don’t fuck this up.

2. The group chat icon MUST be an embarrassing photograph of one of the members

Remember that time you were round Tommo’s house and you saw that framed photograph of him in the bath with his sister? They were definitely older than the acceptable age for that kind of photo to be taken, but still smiling proudly as their chubby little naked bodies bobbed up and down in the water. You took a photo of it and uploaded it to Facebook. (138 likes, not a bad day’s work). Well dig that goldmine up right now because it’s his time to shine once more.

Essentially, the group chat photo has to be cringe. A picture of the A-Team or some generic bullshit won’t cut it. You need to go big or respectfully, go the fuck home. Someone needs to feel an instant pang of discomfort every time they open the group chat to see their smiley head waving at them. To make sure it’s not you who ends up getting rinsed with the group photo, you need to be the one to select a photograph of someone else. Get there first to gain immunity. At that point, you will find inner peace.

3. Everyone will be roasted equally in the chat, as is required by law

The main aim of a group chat is to have fun, but also to roast your mates beyond belief. Just like in real life, there’s usually one standout person that suffers the brunt of everyone’s torment, but that can’t be the case on WhatsApp. It’s too much abuse to take and with the use of images, videos, gifs and screengrabs, someone is going to end up getting hurt.

A far better strategy is to declare open season in the group. Everyone is a free target at all times, which really broadens the landscape for savagery. You’re going to get a fair grilling yourself on occasion, but that’s fine. It’s all in good fun. Just make sure your comebacks are sharp and your reaction gif arsenal is decent. All’s fair in love and WhatsApp roasting.

4. Never, under any circumstances, try to explain the contents of your group chat to an outsider

I don’t care how dank the memes are or how relentless the banter is, an outsider is never going to understand why your friend, who is nicknamed Bin Liner, takes selfies with different quantities of egg cartons every Friday night. It’s not something they’re ever going to understand without a large amount of backstory, and even then, it still won’t make much sense.

What happens in the group chat must stay in the group chat. Do not overestimate the universally understood nature of you and your friends’ sense of humour. One person’s joke is another person’s grounds for beginning legal proceedings. Just enjoy the group for what it is: a bunch of disturbed degenerates relentlessly bodying each other until the end of time.

5. If you’re going to create a subgroup separate from the original group, BE VERY BLOODY CAREFUL

Far too many times we’ve seen some of our finest soldiers fall on their own swords (pretend soldiers use swords, thanks) by putting a savage remark in the wrong group. It’s a deeply uncomfortable experience for all involved and can result in hurt feelings, prolonged silent treatment, intense confrontations and perhaps even a smidge of fisticuffs. You do not want to be that soldier, nor do you want to see it happening to anyone else.

Give the subgroup a wildly different name to the original, perhaps something like ‘BE VERY FUCKING CAREFUL THIS IS A SEPARATE GROUP’ and even a warning sign as the icon. Ideally, avoid having a subgroup altogether by masking your contempt for people in the original group as banter, subtly highlighting their nonsense at every opportunity, but in a fun and relatable way. Just be careful at all times, please.

6. Never leave someone hanging, always reply even if it’s with ‘LOOOL WTF?’

Look, I understand that your friend’s question regarding why they use microphones on Lip Sync Battle isn’t exactly a pressing matter, but it’s bothered them enough to put it in a public forum among friends. The rest of the group have ignored it, but you can be the one to turn things around. Nobody wants to be the loser that’s left hanging in the chat. It’s awkward and makes you question every single life choice that has led you to that particular point.

Always answer a question, is what I’m saying. No matter how dumb it is, no matter how snarky your reply will be, always chip in. The beginning of the end of a WhatsApp group is always triggered by people ignoring each other. I’ve seen far too many decent WhatsApp groups fall by the wayside because people found better groups and stopped replying because the banter cooled off. If you want a banging WhatsApp group, you need to get involved and work hard to maintain a decent level of chat. It’s not a game, it’s a bit of fun, it’s a lifelong commitment.

7. Don’t be a lurker, contribute something you lazy no good piece of shit

Every single WhatsApp group has a lurker. They could be the most vivacious soul in person, but they just can’t translate their character into an online representation of themselves. That’s fine, I’m not here to berate anyone for their inability to be a certifiable legend both in person and on WhatsApp. All I’m here to do is beg you to try.

People notice when you don’t contribute. People obsessively check to see who’s read their messages until there’s two blue ticks next to it. Your hesitance is noted every single time. You’re absorbing all the goodness, but never putting out. They’re all talking about you in another group, calling you an Avox (stunning Hunger Games reference, thank you) and debating whether they should chuck you out of the chat. Don’t be lazy. Not contributing is worse than contributing garbage. Step it up.

8. It is everyone’s God-given right to mute a WhatsApp group, so don’t go off on anyone about it you little shit

It’s very obvious when someone has muted a WhatsApp group. They participate in discussions six hours after they’ve happened and also usually inform everyone that they have taken the incredibly scum decision to mute the group. It’s a malicious act, but can be done for a variety of reasons. You have to respect their approach which is to read the fire messages you’re sending in their own time, rather than not at all.

So take it easy, yeah? Don’t go off on Steve because he’s had enough of your bullshit. He’s got an important job and finds the notifications distracting. Plus, he was showing his Mum a video one day and a message from the group popped up on screen saying ‘Steve shagged a turkey carcass last Christmas’, which required a lot of explaining afterwards. Give him a break, things haven’t been great since Stacy left him, plus his knee’s been acting up again and that’s going to cost another fortune for physio. Get over yourself, your homemade memes aren’t even that funny.