This is particularly important for people who work remotely. Having a chat room where you can just say good morning, let people know you’re out for lunch, and generally just feel part of something is a powerful counter to cabin fever.
The negatives of chat
Unfortunately, the cons are considerably more plentiful than the pros. Group chat as the priage teams, and stress people out. Its impact is severe and far reaching.
1. Mental fatigue and exhaustion.
Following group chat all day feels like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda. And in many cases, a dozen all-day meetings! You hear it from people all the time – it’s exhausting. Constant conversation, constant chatter, no start, no end. You can decide not to pay attention, but that leads to a fear of missing out.
2. An ASAP culture.
Now! At its very core, group chat and real-time communication is all about now. That’s why in some select circumstances it really shines. But chat conditions us to believe everything’s worth discussing quickly right now, except that hardly anything is. Turns out, very few things require ASAP attention. Further, ASAP is inflationary – it devalues any request that doesn’t say ASAP. Before you know it, the only way to get anything done is by throwing it in front of people and asking for their immediate feedback. It’s like you’re constantly tapping everyone’s shoulder – or pulling on everyone’s shirt – to get them to stop what they’re doing and turn around to address what’s on your mind. It’s not a sustainable practice.
If you’re not paying attention all the time, you won’t be able to have your say when something comes up. And since conversations happen quick, and then scroll away on the conveyor belt, if you’re not at your station when it’s your turn to speak, you won’t get a chance later. This encourages people to watch rooms/channels all day to see if a conversation comes up that they feel like they need to dive into.
4. Thinking a line at a time rather than a thought at a time.
Most things worth discussing at length are worth discussing in detail over time. Because chat is presented one line at a time, complete thoughts have to unfold one line-at-a-time. But since people can jump in any time before you’ve had a chance to fully present yourself, making a point can become really frustrating really quickly. Further, incomplete thoughts and staccato responses make it really difficult to fully consider a topic and make important decisions – especially in a group setting. Imagine being in a meeting where everyone just spoke one line at a time, and people kept interrupting you while you were trying to make your point. Would you ever get anywhere? And wouldn’t it take forever?
5. Implied consensus.
“Because we talked about it in the chat room, everyone who needs to know now knows”. You know how it goes – people talk about some work in the chat room and nobody objects. That leads people to assume everyone read that discussion and agreed. Except that they weren’t, or they didn’t. Decisions get made without people’s consent because they weren’t there at the very moment it was discussed. This ties back to many of the points above – “right now” is rarely the moment to both have the discussion and come to a conclusion.
6. Knee-jerk responses.
Discussing something in a chat room is like being on the shot clock. There’s a small window of time to be heard before the point you want to respond to scrolls away. So people often just yell something out just to be heard. The same phenomenon can be seen on Twitter. An accelerating conversation leads to shallow sound bytes and talking points – no different than talking heads on TV that only have 3 minutes to make their point before the segment ends.