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Group chats are collapsing


For Ellen Schiller’s chain of three, the ending was a bit more abrupt. “We were all texting constantly at the start of the pandemic, and it was so dark and entertaining,” said Ms. Schiller, a 50-year-old fiber artist in Salem, Mass., Until the other two group members decide to start a college consulting business last spring. Sitting alone at her sewing machine, Ms. Schiller would stop whenever she was tempted to share an observation with her friends. The thought of them sitting side by side reading his missive in each other’s company made him feel apart.

“They’re like a married couple now,” she said. “I don’t blame them, but I really miss what we had.”

Elena Mehlman, a 25-year-old graphic designer, said her group of five women used to trade gossip and jokes and dream up nonstop getaways. Then things got tense. The situation came to a head when one of the members decided to leave the apartment she shared with another member. “It went totally silent,” said Ms. Mehlman, who now operates in secret, communicating privately with people from the defunct group.

“It’s disappointing,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to have a clique of girls. But Covid had other plans for us.

Alex Levy, a yoga instructor and DJ who lives in Sacramento, is a member of numerous discussion groups, including one made up of about 100 friends he made at Burning Man. But after a while, he said, the text strings “start to shrink and disappear.”

“These things take a natural progression,” said Mr. Levy, 28. “People are starting to live their own lives and go their own way.” Seeming wise and calm as a Jedi, he said a group chat that hasn’t lost its luster this far into a pandemic wouldn’t be natural. “It’s rare for a group discussion to hold together two years later,” he said.