Bring back private messaging on Teams

Benjy Chait

What do I miss most about in-person learning? Organic social interaction. Cracking a joke to your partner and having conversations with ‘school friends’ or acquaintances who you enjoy, but aren’t close enough with to warrant interaction outside of school. 

However, private chat, the online equivalent, is disabled on Microsoft Teams. Wilson should re-enable it, because it uniquely allows for that natural, one-on-one conversation between students that distanced learning lacks.

My impression is that private chats are disabled because they could potentially be used to cheat, or just generally distract students. Before the age of social media, this would be a pretty good objection. However, armed with social media, students are never really more than a few clicks away from each other. 

If one wanted to communicate with another student during a test, they could, through snapchat, text, instagram, or another of the dozens of social media platforms available to us at a whim. Periodically chatting with the person sitting next to you is an important part of school, and it should be transferred to distance learning, too.

Whereas you can cheat on any social media app you want, you can’t really have that natural conversation that begins between two people who kind of know each other. You may be thinking, if you can cheat on any social media, why can’t you talk on any social media as well? The answer is that randomly talking to people you ‘kind of know’ on social media without any excuse to do so violates unspoken norms of conduct in social media and is seen as awkward. Once you leave Teams, it becomes uncomfortable. You no longer have an objective reason to talk to said acquaintance. Thus, it is forced and painful to talk, and as a result, conversation seldom starts in the first place. 

I’ve experienced this firsthand. In participating in extracurriculars like model congress which take place on Zoom, I’ve come to appreciate the private chat. Minor interactions in a private chat such as, “Good point” or “LMAO” make seemingly desolate events suddenly become engaging and lighthearted.

Evidently, getting rid of private chats doesn’t stop cheating, but it does stop the intercommunication of students that makes school feel personal and genuine. Enabling private chat won’t fix distanced learning in its entirety, but it will make it a little less hellish.