The text messages started as a way for the commissioner of our fantasy baseball league to send information to some of the owners.
Occasionally we’d receive a gentle reminder to set our lineups, or a little friendly trash talk during a Sunday Night Baseball game.
Soon, the members of the league began responding to those messages more frequently.
Now, more than a year after it began, “The Thread,” as my friends and I have begun to call it, is a beast that cannot be tamed.
This past Sunday, a day that included rants about low-stakes gambling, Brandon Marshall laterals, Wine Country traffic, the start of hunting season and a super blood moon, my phone vibrated 247 times because of The Thread. The exchanges began at 10 a.m. and ended shortly before midnight. It was a slow day for The Thread.
Many mornings, I wake up to a little red bubble over my messages app showing that I received more than 300 text messages — all while I was sleeping. This from a group of six friends.
There are times when guys have begged out of The Thread, asking other members to start a new text message group without them on it. Those requests have never been granted. (And apparently none of them has figured out that iPhones have a “leave this conversation” option for group messages).
My friend Andy once tried to establish a thread rule that nobody text after 10 p.m. since he needed to get up for work at 6 a.m. that week. That led to a barrage of messages making fun of him at 9:59 p.m. and a series of wake-up texts beginning around 5:59 a.m.
Of course, this never-ending cycle of text messages hasn’t always been popular with our better halves, who are often awakened to the sound of a new message or a chuckle from the latest exchange.
I couldn’t help but burst out in laughter Sunday night when my friend Sean texted that “the moon does nothing for him” and my buddy Matt suggested that he, too, might not step away from Sunday Night Football to view the lunar eclipse since the moon is just “a rock.” When his brother Vince responded that the rock is actually “in space,” Matt quickly reminded him that “we’re in space.”
Of course, I’m not a big fan of all text-messaging threads. The ones where my mom sends messages to me, my wife and my brother when she only meant to address one of us are particularly annoying. [Thanks, mom, but we didn’t all need to know you’re “on your way to the Price Club.”]
Then there’s the thread where my father-in-law complains about Mets manager Terry Collins to me, my sister-in-law’s boyfriend and one of my wife’s uncles whom I’ve never met. (The guy didn’t even come to my wedding and I have to hear his opinions on whether the Mets should have bunted in the top of the seventh inning last night?)
Truth be told, I was a bit of a late adaptor to cellphone technology. I bought my first phone when I got hired as a reporter. Even into the mid-2000s, I would call my friends on the phone to have actual conversations with them, something that seems foreign to me now.
I actually believe that text messaging has become, in a sense, a more intimate form of communication. It’s such a quick and efficient way of reaching out to someone that I find myself getting in touch with friends even more often than I ever did before.
In the past week, I’ve had exchanges with three friends from out of state, reconnected with a friend I used to play softball with, and congratulated another old pal on a son’s recent accomplishment. If not for texting or social media, I’d have no idea what any of these people were up to.
And thanks to The Thread, I know almost everything there is to know about some of my closest friends and their daily activities. When I asked my friends this week what The Thread means to them, they said it was a safe place to really speak their mind. A place where frank opinions about sports or politics or other nonsensical things are always welcome.
Is it a bit much? Certainly, but it’s also nice to have this group of guys still in my life every day, nearly 20 years after most of us graduated from high school, “as our lives go in different directions,” as Sean noted.
“To me, The Thread is a lifeline to my friends that live far away,” added my friend Andy, who moved into my house and helped me pay my mortgage when my first marriage ended, but now lives three hours away in upstate New York. “It makes me feel like we live much closer than we do.”
“It’s a great escape from everyday crazy life to talk about any possible topic out there,” Matt chimed in. “And my wife has never heard me laugh so much.”
Minutes after that text, The Thread filled with LOLs when my buddy Ken texted that he wakes up every day “with high hopes of [his] tax return finally coming,” a reference to an ongoing conflict on The Thread between him and our friend James, his accountant, over whose mistake has led to his difficulties with the IRS. Instead, Ken added that all he “has in life is this thread.”
It’s safe to say that when Ben Franklin uttered his famous line about the certainty of death and taxes, he didn’t know group messaging would one day be something else you could count on. And he definitely didn’t have James for an accountant.
The author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-354-8046.