The Art of the Group Chat: Socialization During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made most in-person socialization risky or impossible. But determined teenagers have found ways to connect despite physical distance through the age-old art of the group chat.


Discord is a popular app for group chats, as it allows users to create their own private servers.

Annaliese Simons, Bear Hub Staff

Unlike most people, I didn’t find out about the start of quarantine through the news. In fact, the first time I heard about early COVID-19 cases in East Brunswick was through a Discord group chat.

Group chats have existed online for as long as people could use the Internet to send messages. Early forums were created to discuss everything from hobbies to politics. And as cell phones became more advanced and the Internet evolved, messaging apps became a key part of modern communication. Some services, like WhatsApp, Discord, and WeChat, all originated as free ways for people to communicate, since cell service can be incredibly expensive. Other apps gained messenger functions as they grew in popularity – Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter didn’t have chat functions when they first came out. Either way, chat apps and group messaging have become an integral part of internet culture as we know it, especially for teenagers.

And that brings us to COVID-19. With the start of nationwide stay-at-home orders and other types of quarantine, teens could no longer socialize in person. So, of course, we turned to our group chats as a way to keep and strengthen our friendships. Junior Nicholas Vinco says, “I’ve spoken to fewer people because I’m mostly limited to those I can speak to online, but as a result I think I’ve gotten closer with them.”

Even those who were relatively inactive in the group chats they were part of have started using them more. Sanjana Sriram, 11, says, “I have started calling people more and I got a lot closer to my inner circle of friends.” Junior Saranya Guttikonda agrees, saying, “I’ve begun to get closer with people who I’ve never talked to in person before.”

For me, the group chats I’m a part of are more than just a method of necessary communication. In a group chat, there’s always someone to lend an ear or discuss the finer points of meme culture with. And, of course, there’s nothing like a heated game of Among Us, especially when played at 3 AM over Discord.