A few years back, a friend invited me to spend Presidents’ Day weekend at her parents’ house. She’d invited a handful of people, some I knew, some I didn’t. “I think everybody will really get along,” she said. “Or at least I hope you will.” She was right. Some perfect, near-magic combination of good weather and enough of us spilling wine on the carpet that it became an inside joke forged a friendship. And with that friendship came a new group chat.
I’m not entirely sure what defines a “lit” group chat, but if a frequent exchange of messages, pictures, videos, GIFs, and links fits the bill, I feel confident labeling our group chat as such. The group chat was lit. A consistent back and forth of blue and white text bubbles. Blue and white because everybody in the group was an iPhone user. During the workday, when I spent most of my time hunched over a MacBook, the group chat followed me there, too. More blue and white bubbles.
Fast-forward to over a year later. The group, and the group chat, are still going strong, even if we aren’t in quite so nearly constant contact. It’s the week of one group member’s birthday, my friend Sam. The year before, Sam had thrown a party where we dressed up in ’70s costumes. Somebody texted a few pictures from that party to the thread to get us excited for this year’s event. (No theme, sadly.) “I’m hungover looking at these,” one of us replied. “I won’t be in town but HAPPY BIRTHDAY,” another texted. Sam was oddly quiet. Looking back at my message logs now, Sam had actually been oddly quiet for over a month at that point, but we hadn’t thought anything of it.
On the day of Sam’s actual birthday, the chat picked up again. Kind wishes. Pictures of Sam from previous hangs. Talking about how excited we were to go out with her that night. Still … Sam said nothing. No number of birthday-cake emoji and question marks could seem to get her to respond. Another friend in the group, Alex, decided that it must be some technical difficulty, so she decided to remove Sam from the group chat and then re-add her, hoping this would reanimate Sam. The group got a notification, “Alex has removed Sam from the conversation.” After that, there are just two texts in the group thread, the final texts we’d ever send in that particular chat: “Omg I can’t re-add her” and “She got an Android.”
Ohhhhhhh. An Android. It suddenly made sense, and I found myself remembering snippets of a months-earlier conversation with Sam about phones and cameras and switching over when her contract was up. It’s not like you can’t have a multi-OS group chat, it just works a little differently. The messages are sent as SMS text messages, and they come through in green bubbles, rather than blue. Some of the baked-in features of iMessage don’t work between iPhones and Androids, and, frankly, it’s often just glitchy.
Sam texted us all in a new chat almost immediately, “Hello!! Can you hear me??? I got a new phone???” We replied just as quickly. “OMG!” “She is risen!” “She lives!” The chat was slightly weird, format-wise, in that it seemed to pick up where a different group chat from months earlier had left off. (iMessage has a feature that lets you name your group chats. But if you ever message the group without entering the chosen name, instead of typing out the names of the people you want to text, it starts another thread. Love it when technology is easy to use and doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily.) “It’s your bday!!!” one friend wrote. “We have to forgive you for going GREEN.”
Then there was the elephant in the chat room. Did Sam really think we’d been ignoring her for weeks on end? “Did you think we haven’t texted you in like six weeks?!?!” somebody finally asked. Sam said she did and asked if we felt the same. “In a word … yes,” I replied. We all laughed and apologized and assumed that would be the end of the issues. We’d just be a green-and-white text family now. Except it wasn’t. The Franken–group chat we restarted upon discovering Sam’s Android turned into an entirely different group chat if I tried to use it on my MacBook. It weirdly cut off after Sam’s birthday and spawned yet another chat that only appears on my phone. “Lol Sam so many of your texts are contextless,” a friend wrote, noting that Sam’s messages often came in out of order in our thread.
The group chat never fully recovered from the Android introduction. Sure, there are plenty of third-party apps and platforms we could have used to continue talking with more ease, but we never bothered with them. Instead, the group chat sort of faded into the background. We’re all still friends with each other individually, and we hang out in various combinations from the original group, but the chat that once notified me that I had north of 200 new messages after coming out of a musical where I’d turned my phone on airplane mode was no more. The blame here almost certainly doesn’t fall solely on technology so much as on us, the people using the technology, but it’s nice to have something more concrete to assign fault.
A few weeks ago, Sam texted me and one other friend while I was at work, asking if we wanted to get dinner later. I didn’t reply right away. The other friend later asked me if I hadn’t replied because I was hesitant about getting dinner or just didn’t want to go. “No, no,” I told her. “I’m so excited to see you two! I was working on my MacBook and the text never came through.” Stupid Android.