I'm not particularly strong. It doesn't matter which jokes include me or which dinners I'm invited to. But it's useful to think about the people who are actually building digital rooms. We often catch glimpses of such group chats in court filings, with iMessage's familiar blue and white bubbles screenshotted and laid out as evidence. For example, a series of messages between Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson are among the many chats at issue in Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit against Fox News. There was one. His tone was amusingly familiar. They complain, gossip, and jointly process the news. Carlson admits he would never say it on air. I really can't wait. ” (He sounds like a 2019 MSNBC-stained liberal!) They bitch about their colleagues at Fox. “My anger towards the news channels is palpable,” Ingraham wrote. lol. (She soothes the sentiment with an awkward digital laugh. She's just like me!) But she also acknowledges the possibility of group influence. “I think there's a lot of power between the three of us. ,” she writes, then goes on to write, “We should all consider how we can work together to force change.”
That “thinking together”, going back and forth in real time, moving toward something not specific, but very specific, is what group chats are about. There have always been closed-door meetings between powerful media figures, but they no longer happen in the proverbial smoke-filled room. They always occur more diffusely. I know of group chats where, among other things, groups of successful men exchange investment tips and sometimes act as a de facto investment group. (I'm not in that chat. Would I have more money if I were?) Like the January 6th riot, when people work together they end up breaking the law against each other. In some cases, violations are encouraged. A treasure trove of group chats enters court records. According to the Australian Financial Review, Sam Bankman-Freed was involved in a group chat called “Wire Fraud”. He denies this, but it's funny how easy it is to imagine it to be true. If a group of tech people were to orchestrate a scam, where else but chat?
Such chats don't have to be overtly malicious. Their power is often an indirect result of the tenuous social bonds that people rub against each other digitally all day long. Last March's Silicon Valley bank run can be traced, at least in part, to a group chat that included “over 200 tech founders,” as one member put it on Twitter. The man who tweeted this described his familiar experience of seeing a stressful message pop up during a bathroom break at work. Seeing the alarming chatter about the bank, he canceled the meeting and immediately urged his wife to withdraw the money. Others followed suit. One wonders what was being said in this group chat of “200+ tech founders” before the bank run. If I had to guess, it would be basically no different than my own chat. It's a jumble of links and different conversations that start and stop. I imagine people complaining about Bay Area housing policies or recommending the latest mushroom-based coffee alternative. Without realizing it, they may have built something together, even if it wasn't defined. It's a community built on shared values, interests, and hobbies, from what Hayes Valley restaurants are your favorite, and reaffirmed in the little things every day. Then someone questions the bank's solvency, someone else latches onto it, and all hell breaks loose.
People always act irrationally based on limited information, but when you have people with so much influence operating at this speed and their reactions are all intertwined with each other in one digital place, There's something special, perhaps even unprecedented, about bouncing back into the real world. The whole world can send millions of dollars in one way or another. The dynamics of a group chat – who's in and who's not – can seem like the adult version of kids fighting over the lunch table. But these power relations can determine not only who eats where, but also economic events, political events, and news of substantial imports. None of these things can be completely ruled out, and all of them are happening at lightning speed right now.
One of my favorite group chats, now defunct, was between me and two friends who suddenly became good friends. It's called the “Recently Singles' Club,” a name chosen as a sort of joke, despite the circumstances not seeming like a joke at all to us. For me, it was a sad end to a relationship that lasted nearly five years. It defined my adult life. Although we weren't discussing the reality of our newly discovered symptoms in group chats, we did discuss many things in person, sometimes over drinks, just the three of us. Looking back at our texts sent at a high clip during a strange and slightly manic spring and summer, I can see that we were doing other things. An intermittent, reliable, and steady form of low-grade company. That was something I could tolerate. Giving each other the nickname “Top Gun,” exchanging gossip and bad music recommendations, or arranging mutual listening sessions on Spotify while you're preparing for a party can mean someone is simply listening to you in the room. It's a virtual version of you just sitting next to you. Even in the midst of illness and sadness, do nothing more than just be there. Eventually the chat name was changed to reflect that we were no longer recently single. Strictly speaking, some of us were no longer single at all, but then that chat almost disappeared, replaced by other large chats, various combinations of friends.