I’m quirky me. I’m a real one-off. A real card. Honestly, I just think about things in a different way. I’m so kooky.
No you’re not.
And neither are your mates. They are all unoriginal, and not unique, and resolutely un-crazy and, in all likelihood, uninteresting.
And what enables us to make such sweeping generalisations having never met you? The absolute, undeniable certainty that you are in exactly the same WhatsApp groups as me and everyone else in the UK.
We’re not so different, you and I – and here are the WhatsApp groups to prove it.
A term which originally came to the public’s attention back in 2014 when it was revealed (in the midst of a court case) to be the name of an elite Oxford University drinking club. The ensuing sense of public disgust, I believe, lay mainly with the fact that this was the most banterous ‘banter group’ name that it was possible to have and people were extremely annoyed that they hadn’t thought of it themselves.
This is your go-to group, the prime source of fresh banter, juicy memes, in-jokes and general nonsense chat between your closest mates, who you would definitely take a bullet for. You will regularly look over at your phone and see 103 unread messages which must be waded through, just in case you miss any comedy gold. One member will be constantly trying to leave only to be hilariously added back in immediately every time. The photo and name will change regularly depending on the tangents the chat goes off on, usually to a name that will prove highly embarrassing when your phone goes off in a meeting - but the name must never be questioned, for to do so would suggest that you question the banter. And one must never question the banter on Banter Squadron.
This is your direct feed into banterdom; your social hub, and you are nothing without it. You must feed it as it feeds you – banter must be shared here first before it goes anywhere near the rest of your socials – don’t be tempted to break this rule: some ‘likes’ may let you feast for a day, but Banter Squadron will nourish you for a lifetime. Cherish it.
“[FOOTBALL TEAM CHANT]”
The home of your team’s gossip, this is populated by fellow diehards. Ninety-five per cent of the content will be self-deprecating pessimism (“new signing. Scored 5 goals in 128 appearances, looking good lads”), borne of years of experience of abject and near-constant failure, with the very, very occasional ray of optimism, which will be quickly shot down as if you have taken leave of your senses. Which, to be fair, you have.
Direct reports from the trenches will be provided to those who couldn’t make the game today, while there must be a minimum of 200 messages during the match post-mortem, after which you will reach a group consensus on the way forward, tactically and strategically, for the club. You regularly toy with the idea of issuing official statements. You all secretly believe that, given the chance, you could run the club better than those jokers currently in charge. The supporters’ support group, this is a crucial safe space to get you through the trials of hope and (mainly) despair that is supporting a football team.
“[FAMILY NAME] GROUP”
Look, you can’t have it both ways. You showed them all how to sign up for WhatsApp (“Honestly, it’s just like a text message.” “So why do I need to download it then, why can’t I just text.”) so that you didn’t have to keep spending money on sending them photos of the dog (yes, you still pay for picture messages, check your contract), so now you have to bear the cross of them sending WhatsApp messages every single time there’s a family birthday, anniversary, saint’s day, bank holiday, day of the week, or two-year-old meme they’ve just discovered.
Every photo of anyone, by law, no matter how awful, must be replied to by every single other family member saying “oh you look gorgeous babez”, “stunning” or “wow” like a Facebook comments section. Every so often a distinctly un-PC message from a great uncle will pop up which, while you outwardly tut and inwardly sigh at the crippling un-wokeness of your relations, at least livens up proceedings a bit.
Occasionally a family member will bitch about another family member not realising they’re posting in the ‘big’ group, which livens up proceedings even more. However, you will regularly look over at your phone and see 103 unread messages, none of which will be interesting. You love them all - and actually, this is all very sweet and quite a nice respite from the grinding cynicism and sarcasm of everyday life from people that genuinely care about you - but, let’s be honest, when it boils down to it: this is time that could be better spent in Banter Squadron.
The absolute classic: this is what WhatsApp was invented for. Two weeks before the big weekend, the best man will begin the process of adding the people to the group, with the first message, by law, being “STAG LEGENDS ASSEMBLE”. At first people will be a bit reticent to get stuck in - there’s bound to be an older uncle or two, and, as the anonymous numbers are added, you don’t want the stag’s ‘other’ mates to think/realise you’re a prick, so the banter will be fairly low key.
However, at zero hours on stag day#1 all bets are off and the banter doth flow and the photos and videos of the destroyed stag with his top off on a bar singing Bon Jovi doth get uploaded. The culmination of the weekend sees our weary warriors signing off (“cheers for a great weekend lads, genuinely think I might die. See you at the wedding”) and then the group lies dormant, forever, a document to be added to the historical record.
If they’d had WhatsApp in 1066 there’d have been no need for the Bayeux Tapestry, they’d have just had a WhatsApp group called “Norman’s Big One in Hastings” with a photo of a stricken, post-arrow Harold with the caption ‘he didn’t see that one coming! (archery emoji x 2, eye emoji x 2, thumbs up emoji x2).
“THE MISSUS/THE BOY”
The best photos and loving comments between you and your other half will be saved for Instagram and Facebook. If you’re achingly millennial, your best funny chat will be saved for Twitter where you can broadcast it to the adoring masses. WhatsApp is strictly for business, preferably with the minimum number of characters. “What time u home”. “What time we meetin”. “Have you fed the dog” (dog ideally replaced with dog emoji). “U left the bathroom untidy again.” This is as loving as it gets in this ‘group’.
When the aliens discover our archived chats in a thousand years from now they will assume that we all only truly knew the wonder of love with the members of Banter Squadron and mixed with the opposite sex purely in order to begrudgingly keep the species going.
“[INSERT HOUSE NUMBER AND STREET]”
The shared house group; a marriage of occasional fun and a whole heap of boring-but-necessary stuff, much like a real marriage in fact. In the days before a house party, this suddenly becomes a place of excitement, wonder and champagne emojis; in the days following another argument over washing-up this is a place of bitter recrimination and passive-aggressive anger. A lot of passive-aggressive anger.
At the end of the day, at least you have a go-to group for when you’ve lost your keys – again – and someone might actually be able to let you in when you roll home at 4am.
“[5-A-SIDE TEAM NAME] LADZ”
Like a call to prayer, big Daz will summon the faithful with his cry of: “Oi oi, whose (sic) in this week, gunna bang in a worldie this week I can feel it”.
All footballing life is here: the ultra-reliable guy who turns up every week (“in”) but you sort of wish he wouldn’t bother because he’s not very good, the youngster who is better than all of you (“yeah I can make it”) but you don’t want him to realise quite how good he is because he might bugger off and play for a better team, the annoying guy who shoots every single time he gets the ball ("can’t wait”), the ageing warhorse who when he says “sorry lads can’t make it this week, family calls” your heart sinks as he is the glue that holds the team together and the guy who says he’ll play and then every single time, without fail, will pull out with the most tenuous excuse ("sorry guys work’s a nightmare again, promise I’ll be there next week”).
Footy memes, logistics, banter, recriminations: the rich tapestry of footballing WhatsApp.
“[WORK NAME] CHAT”
Someone suggested having one and obviously no one could say no and now, there it is: work can contact you 24/7/365. And this isn’t the only difficult thing: [Work Name] Chat is a group that is balanced on a knife-edge of uncertainty. Just how banterous can you push the work group before someone’s on the phone to Sue in HR? But you can’t risk people thinking you’re boring either. Eternal rules: nothing about religion, politics and Diana. Look, she’s still the People’s Princess alright.
“DID YOU JUST SEE….”
Something happens on telly/social media/in real life, possibly a bit ‘off-colour’ that you absolutely must, immediately share with the 3 people you know who will 100% definitely find this hilarious (and not be offended). Despite it being way more of a hassle to set up a WhatsApp group with a name and a photo than to just do a group text, it’s not 2011 any more and you must use WhatsApp. A flurry of crylaugh emojis will follow, a bit of a chat, and then – it’s over. Forever.
Burning brightly, but briefly, like a candle in the wind, this group, with no long-term purpose, is left to descend down your chats like a discarded, once-used Christmas joke present toy descends to the sea floor; digital junk which will never biodegrade in the digital ocean. Funny for 10 minutes, now just taking up space on your phone’s memory.
“[INSERT BAND NAME] TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED”
Chas and Dave have announced their annual Spring Beano and, as the most clued-up music hound around, it’s your job to round up all of your mates who enjoy a bit of Rockney and get them to agree to come with you. Naturally, at least one of them will drop out after you’ve bought the tickets but the beauty of WhatsApp is that you have their confirmation (“rabbit rabbit rabbit yeah I’m in”) in writing meaning that you can legally force them to pay anyway.
Everyone’s cottoned on to the fact that the only way to get tickets for Glastonbury – that anti-corporate, anti-organisation, free-thinking gathering of free-spirited individuals – is to act like an organised, single-minded corporate team ruthlessly looking to close a deal and screw over their rivals (everyone else in the country). In the build up, everyone is urged to obtain registration numbers, which are then stored centrally, while everyone must have bank accounts with the sufficient funds to buy the maximum six tickets per transaction.
On ticket release day this WhatsApp group will resemble a military HQ with every member expected to contribute (“Use MULTIPLE DEVICES people”) the first to bravely enter enemy territory (“I’M IN”) hailed, and those who fail mourned (“THE BASTARD’S CRASHED DURING THE CREDIT CARD INPUT”). It’s not all a communal effort though – deep down you know that if you’re one of the lucky ones, that means that you’re definitely getting a ticket, and if there’s more than six of you in the group, some will miss out. Who will you select? OH, THE POWER.
“QUIZ TEAM LEGENDS”
The home of, unsurprisingly, your fellow quiz team legends down the Dog and Duck, this place is, like the five-a-side group, a chance to get excited for the big event and then pick over the bones of last week’s glorious triumph/disastrous failure. True quiz fiends will be keeping an eye out for sporting event results that could come up in this week’s battle while, naturally, you will be watching University Challenge each week to try desperately to osmosise some knowledge from those unfeasibly clever students.
Monkman will have been the photo for this group for the whole of the last season and he is your god. Any team that regularly beats you will be subjected to the vilest language and allegations imaginable (“those c**ts are definitely cheating”). And that is only right and proper because quiz is one of the most important things you can do as a human and it should be taken very seriously indeed.
Almost certainly originally uploaded to Banter Squadron, this will be so mirthful that it will get its own group, with someone bumping it to the top every sixth months or so ( “Just remembered this crylaugh emoji”). And every time you will reply with a crylaugh emoji and actually, for real, laugh out loud. The magic of WhatsApp, eh?
“[MATE’S NAME] WEDDING”
In theory, this should be the banterous continuation of StagStagStagLadsLadsLads, but this is a wedding, and weddings involve far more admin than the stag preparation of buncing a best man £150 and putting a t-shirt in a rucksack. Thus, this is a far more perfunctory group involving timings (“I’ve lost the invite already, when is it again?”), location (“where’s everyone staying”), timings (“what time is the ceremony”), gifting (“has anyone else bought anything”), timings (“yes but is that the time the ceremony actually starts or is that when you’re supposed to get there”), clothing (“I can’t find a tie, has anyone got a spare they can lend me”), timings (“when does the cocking reception start”), location (“so is the reception in the same place or not?”), timings (“when does it finish”), transport (“can anyone give me a lift there”), timings (“Craig’s girlfriend says that’s when it starts but how long before that should you get there, is half an hour too long”) and transport (“can anyone give me a lift back”). Do not be fooled: “[Mate’s Name] Wedding” is an anti-banter zone.
“[RANDOM GERMAN TOWN] ARMY”
There is a chance that this group may not be applicable across the board here but it’s the one that’s set up when you go to a small German town near Frankfurt and watch Germany’s premier Phil Collins tribute band, ‘Still Collins’ and then the next day travel to watch the nearest football match which happens to be a Bundesliga 2 game at Darmstadt where you get chatting to some fans who happen to speak English and are intrigued by the presence of a group of random Brits at a second-tier German match whilst enjoying a pint and a bratwurst and end up drinking with them all day and then agree to stay in touch and actually do and go out to see Darmstadt play again and then they become your official ‘German team’ and you keep up to date with their form via this WhatsApp group as well as indulging in Anglo-German banter thus forging new European links between our two great countries. As I say, not necessarily applicable across the board that one.
“ANYONE FREE THIS SUNDAY?”
To which no one replied. The bastards.