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Why WhatsApp groups give me a serious case of FOMO

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”Oh all these WhatsApp groups are stressing me out,” said a friend recently, ”I can hardly keep up with all the messages.”

It felt like a backwards boast. Like, when someone proclaims loudly that they have too many weddings to go to that summer. Or they’re Godparent to so many children. Or they were invited to sooo many Christmas parties. Really, they are sharing with you that their life is busy & they are popular.

Granted, the onslaught of messages is a very modern problem. Communication is at its utmost – it can be stressful with all the

SelfishMother.com
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emails, texts and DMs. I get that.

But there is something about the proliferation of WhatsApp groups that I find cliquey.

Because, if you’re not in one, and friends of yours are, and someone mentions this group to you: then it feels like you’re left out.

And modern social etiquette means that it’s a bold move to request you are added.

A few years ago, a group of friends I used to know, had – by all accounts – a buzzing WhatsApp group. Here they discussed all sorts of topics and planned meet-ups. I know this because a couple of them

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mentioned they were in it, as if it was a badge of honour. They didn’t invite me, and, like a 10-year-old, I inwardly decided that I didn’t want to belong, anyway.

I wouldn’t have thought much more of it, except when soon afterwards something annoying happened to me; I was told that ’Everyone in the WhatsApp group supports you.” As if they were a closed jury, deciding my fate. I wondered; what if I was someone they didn’t support? Would I have been openly dissed by the closed forum? I’m sure many people were.

It gave me shivers that the

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closed messaging group was the tech version of a circle of friends in a playground. They share gossip and chat, but if you’re outside, it’s pretty hard to be included. Because once the group is formed, it rarely invites newcomers.

I guess that is the thing. That WhatsApps are closed. They are fortresses. You can say whatever you want to say. And include or exclude whoever you want to. And while this can be fun if you’re part of that group, it can feel like social exclusion if you’re not. And of course, you’re only made aware of WhatsApp groups

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you don’t belong to if someone happens to mention them to you. And then you’re left wondering why you’re not involved.

Recently when I threw a party and RSVPs were thin on the ground, I was told by a friend that I shouldn’t worry as lots of people were coming. They were talking about the party in her WhatsApp group. Not privy to this group, I wondered how on earth I was meant to know this? Luckily lots of people came, and the party was super. But I’d have loved if they had RSVP’d to me, rather than simply message each other about it. Or maybe I

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could have been included in the messages… so I didn’t think I’d be celebrating alone.

I belong to three Groups. My family has one. My team at work has one. So do 4 of us friends who shared a flat at college, 20 years ago. But apart from that, my life is unfettered by the tyranny of too many messages to keep up with (although my work inbox is another story). So, when people complain about this ’problem,’ it makes me get a case of FOMO.

The crux of it is for me, that rather than desperately wanting to communicate via the medium of tech, what I

SelfishMother.com
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want is the real-life connection that comes from these groups; meet-ups with long-lost friends, invites to parties, hanging out for the sake of it, drinks in the local pub. Life can be lonely when your life swings between family & work… it’s these real meetings and connections that really warm the heart.

It’s a little bit like the time, in 1990, where it felt like everyone in my year (except me), was invited to a cool birthday party where they all got to play Spin the Bottle. There was so much snogging, that everyone talked about it for years

SelfishMother.com
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afterwards. Do you know what I did? Soon afterwards, I planned my own party. It was brilliant. So, I’m guessing maybe I should start my own group. But, it will have to be an inclusive one: I don’t want to give anyone a case of FOMO.
SelfishMother.com
Molly Gunn

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- 5 Jan 19

“Oh all these WhatsApp groups are stressing me out,” said a friend recently, “I can hardly keep up with all the messages.”

It felt like a backwards boast. Like, when someone proclaims loudly that they have too many weddings to go to that summer. Or they’re Godparent to so many children. Or they were invited to sooo many Christmas parties. Really, they are sharing with you that their life is busy & they are popular.

Granted, the onslaught of messages is a very modern problem. Communication is at its utmost – it can be stressful with all the emails, texts and DMs. I get that.

But there is something about the proliferation of WhatsApp groups that I find cliquey.

Because, if you’re not in one, and friends of yours are, and someone mentions this group to you: then it feels like you’re left out.

And modern social etiquette means that it’s a bold move to request you are added.

A few years ago, a group of friends I used to know, had – by all accounts – a buzzing WhatsApp group. Here they discussed all sorts of topics and planned meet-ups. I know this because a couple of them mentioned they were in it, as if it was a badge of honour. They didn’t invite me, and, like a 10-year-old, I inwardly decided that I didn’t want to belong, anyway.

I wouldn’t have thought much more of it, except when soon afterwards something annoying happened to me; I was told that ‘Everyone in the WhatsApp group supports you.” As if they were a closed jury, deciding my fate. I wondered; what if I was someone they didn’t support? Would I have been openly dissed by the closed forum? I’m sure many people were.

It gave me shivers that the closed messaging group was the tech version of a circle of friends in a playground. They share gossip and chat, but if you’re outside, it’s pretty hard to be included. Because once the group is formed, it rarely invites newcomers.

I guess that is the thing. That WhatsApps are closed. They are fortresses. You can say whatever you want to say. And include or exclude whoever you want to. And while this can be fun if you’re part of that group, it can feel like social exclusion if you’re not. And of course, you’re only made aware of WhatsApp groups you don’t belong to if someone happens to mention them to you. And then you’re left wondering why you’re not involved.

Recently when I threw a party and RSVPs were thin on the ground, I was told by a friend that I shouldn’t worry as lots of people were coming. They were talking about the party in her WhatsApp group. Not privy to this group, I wondered how on earth I was meant to know this? Luckily lots of people came, and the party was super. But I’d have loved if they had RSVP’d to me, rather than simply message each other about it. Or maybe I could have been included in the messages… so I didn’t think I’d be celebrating alone.

I belong to three Groups. My family has one. My team at work has one. So do 4 of us friends who shared a flat at college, 20 years ago. But apart from that, my life is unfettered by the tyranny of too many messages to keep up with (although my work inbox is another story). So, when people complain about this ‘problem,’ it makes me get a case of FOMO.

The crux of it is for me, that rather than desperately wanting to communicate via the medium of tech, what I want is the real-life connection that comes from these groups; meet-ups with long-lost friends, invites to parties, hanging out for the sake of it, drinks in the local pub. Life can be lonely when your life swings between family & work… it’s these real meetings and connections that really warm the heart.

It’s a little bit like the time, in 1990, where it felt like everyone in my year (except me), was invited to a cool birthday party where they all got to play Spin the Bottle. There was so much snogging, that everyone talked about it for years afterwards. Do you know what I did? Soon afterwards, I planned my own party. It was brilliant. So, I’m guessing maybe I should start my own group. But, it will have to be an inclusive one: I don’t want to give anyone a case of FOMO.

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Molly Gunn

Molly Gunn is the Curator of Goodness at Selfish Mother, a site she created for likeminded women in 2013. Molly has been a journalist for over 15 years, starting out on fashion desks at The Guardian, The Telegraph & ES Magazine before going freelance in 2006 to write for publications including Red, Stella, Grazia, Net-A-Porter and ELLE. She now edits Selfish Mother and creates #GoodTees which are sold via TheFMLYStore.com and John Lewis and have so far raised £650K for charity. Molly is mother to Rafferty, 5, Fox, 3 and baby Liberty. Molly is married to Tom, aka music producer Tee Mango and founder of Millionhands. They live, work and play in Somerset.

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