From Constant Chatter to True Connection: Escaping the Superficiality of Group Chats for Richer, More Meaningful Relationships

Photo by Netflix

Chris Rock has a funny bit in one of his stand-ups about how prior to cell phones, couples had a chance to miss each other during the day. The man would kiss his wife on his way out the door as he left for work in the morning, and they wouldn’t speak again until he returned in the evening. He goes on to say they had things to talk about later, they got to think about the other one and wonder what they might be doing. Now, most of us give our partners or close friends such play-by-plays of what’s happening that we don’t have anything to share when we finally see each other. No one has time to miss the other because we know where they are, what they’re doing, and what they’re thinking and feeling.

While I don’t text with close friends or my husband constantly when apart, Chris Rock’s bit still hits close to home. You see, I was involuntarily added to a group chat. At first, it was entertaining. Memes were exchanged, funny anecdotes shared, pictures of kids and pets sent. At times it was useful, like when plans to get together were made or if someone needed a particular bit of information that only a member of this group would know. But then it became tiresome. The same jokes repurposed and then just straight up repeated. The same memories shared. And if there was a get together you wouldn’t be at, there was a smattering of guilt-ridden comments and shame thrown your way. And it was relentless. Constant day and night exchanges without an end in sight.

Relationships Protect Us From Stress

Research has found that relationships and social connections are essential for our wellbeing as we age AND they act as protective buffers to stress and adversity (Waldinger and Schulz 2023). We need to have people that we can share our lives with and reach out to when we need support. But this group chat wasn’t providing that for me at all. In fact, it was doing the opposite. I found that I no longer wanted to join get-togethers. There hadn’t been time to miss one another or wonder what anyone was up to. Prior to the group chat, I looked forward to seeing everyone in the group. After it was formed, I dreaded it.


Humans are social creatures, and we rely on one another. But beyond filling basic needs like shelter and food, these relationships also need to have some depth. In the longest running study on human happiness, researchers for the Harvard Longitudinal Study found that we live longer and feel better when we have meaningful connections with others (Waldinger and Schulz 2023). After turning off notifications, appealing to the group chat creator to take me out of the group (it’s not as simple as leaving the conversation when you have both iPhone and Android users), and finally, blocking the most active users, I was free.

Constant Online Exchanges Can Increase Loneliness

Depth in relationships comes from spending quality time together, not surface level texts.

I see this same thing happen with many of my clients. They’re so in touch with their friend group and exchange so many snaps, DMs, and texts that there’s nothing to share when they see each other. They feel bored with one another and wonder why. They avoid real conversations in person and instead, keep conversations surface level through texts. They can’t figure out why they feel lonely and isolated. They want depth in their relationships and tend to think it comes from constant exposure through spamming texts or sending selfies. They don’t realize it actually comes from giving space and spending quality time together.

When we give others space, it provides them with the opportunity to do other things. They get to try out different activities, form or deepen other relationships, go on adventures, and rest and recharge, all while we’re doing the same things. When we meet back up again, we’re a better version of ourselves and we have new thoughts to share. We’re proud of our lives outside one another and glad to see each other again. We have stories, opinions, perspectives, and information that we didn’t have before. It feels good.

Five Ways To Have More Meaningful Connections

Photo by Brook Cagle
  1. Keep your texts/DMs to a minimum. When we make a habit of keeping our responses simple and don’t do a lot of back-and-forth, we’ll have more to share when we see each other. Even if your friend lives far away and you can’t see them in person, save the good parts of your life for when you’re able to connect via video.
  2. Schedule in-person hang outs. Rather than texting, ask the person to Facetime, call them, or ask to schedule a time to meet up in person. Focus on meaningful conversation and topics, like how you feel/think about current events, important relationships in your lives, and things you’re currently excited about.
  3. Avoid having deep conversations via text. It’s easy to get pulled into a conversation via text, but as most of us have learned, there’s so much that gets missed or misinterpreted when we do. When someone tries to have a deep conversation with me via text, my common response is, “This is something I’d love to talk about in person. When are you available for a coffee date?”
  4. Take time to explore curiosities and passions. Spend time offline and building a life for yourself that includes hobbies, learning, skill building, and growth. You’ll have amazing information to share when you see others and your life will feel richer and more robust because of it.
  5. Get comfortable being alone. It’s so much easier to pick up a phone and scroll than it is to just sit by ourselves, isn’t it? But this is often why we text or DM others, we’re bored or uncomfortable being alone. Instead, practice doing things alone and without your phone. When everyone is gone from the house, find ways to enjoy your own company. Journal, get creative, read, or start a project you’ve been wanting to work on.


While there’s value in online relationships and exchanges, it’s easy to let the convenience of quick exchanges become the norm. By focusing on meaningful conversations and taking space to deepen our relationships (with others and ourselves), we feel a greater sense of belonging and less loneliness. It’s harder in the short term but so much better for us in the long term.


Recognized nationally for her expertise, Dr. Melanie has been invited to the White House to discuss the paramount importance of teen mental health. To learn more about mental health and find ways to overcome anxiety or self-limiting beliefs, check out Dr. Melanie McNally's Therapy Bootcamp.



Waldinger, R. and Schulz, M. (2023). The Good Life: Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. ‎Simon & Schuster. 

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