Press Release | 12 Jun 2024

From ‘holibobs’ to ‘famalam’: the group chats uniting the UK

Vodafone uncovers the nation’s networks in a new study.

  • New research from Vodafone reveals a snapshot of the online networks that make up the nation, and the habits and behaviours that drive our group chats.
  • The average adult is now part of 83 active group chats and the way we’re communicating as a nation is evolving, with group chats now surpassing 1-2-1 conversations.
  • Over a quarter (26%) communicate with friends, family and work colleagues through their group chats more than one-on-one messaging.
  • ‘Holibobs’, ‘Hen Huns’ and ‘Famalam’ revealed as the three most common group names.
  • Vodafone is creating the UK’s biggest photo booth, giving online groups and communities the chance to get the ultimate group profile pic from celebrity photographer Samir Hussein.
  • Using the magic of AI, each photo will be given a fun and unique background to bring to life the individual group’s personality.

New research from Vodafone has lifted the lid on the communities and groups that make up our nation’s networks, uncovering the habits and behaviours that exist within our online group chats.

The study, conducted in partnership with Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, Robin Dunbar, discovered that adults are part of 83 different group chats. They communicate with their networks of friends, family and colleagues via online group chats more than they do via phone calls (52%), meeting face-to-face (36%) or individual conversations (26%).

The top five reasons people prefer group chats are: the ability to share personal updates with everyone at one time (56%), ease of planning (53%), sharing pictures and videos (50%), loved ones being able to hear big news at the same time (so as not to be accused of ‘playing favourites’ – 35%) and efficiency, given that people are so time-poor (29%).

The five most popular group network names have been revealed as ‘Holibobs’ in at number one, followed by ‘Hen Huns’, ‘Famalam’, ‘Gossip Girlies’ and ‘Baes’.

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The findings showed that group chats don’t just play a practical role in the lives of the nation, but an emotional one too, with 60% of respondents who live apart from loved ones saying their online messaging platforms help them feel more connected, and nearly half (43%) believing their family group chat has brought them closer together than ever.

And nearly a quarter (23%) have even made a new friend with someone they met online, after being added to the same group chat.

Professor Robin Dunbar says: “Maintaining contact with our networks is one of the most important things we can ever do – not just because they are fun to spend time with. But because research shows that having a small, cohesive group of friends and contacts massively improves our mental health and wellbeing – and even our physical health.”

“Family is the most important, guaranteed source of support we can ever have, and being able to communicate online helps keep those essential relationships ticking over.”

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With eight-in-10 (86%) adults choosing WhatsApp as a key platform for communication, the average user is part of 10 group chats with 12 members on WhatsApp. The most common group chat themes include family (66%), friendship groups (55%) and night-out planning (30%).

However, with so many different active online networks in play, the research found that half (50%) of users are part of an online community or group that lacks a profile picture including all its members. To celebrate the nation’s networks – the groups, teams, squads and crews that exist on our phones – Vodafone has created the UK’s biggest-ever photo booth to bring groups of friends, family, colleagues, and more, together for a profile picture with a difference.

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The structure, which holds up to 30 people at a time and is 6.5 times bigger than the average photo booth, will offer the nation’s diverse networks and communities a profile picture with an AI twist, captured by photographer to the stars, Samir Hussein, known for his candid photography of the Royals and celebrities including Taylor Swift, Zendaya, The Rolling Stones and Stormzy.

Roman Kemp, Vodafone brand ambassador and broadcaster, said: “I know how important it is to stay connected to your online networks, I would be totally lost without my group chats.

“As the nation’s network, Vodafone is helping us all to stay connected and I’m excited to be celebrating the weird, wacky and wonderful networks that make up the nation. Whether it’s sharing a quick update with the Kemp Clan or coordinating the next game with my five-a-side football team, my online group chats are the way I stay connected. Also, as I travel a lot, group chats are the easiest way to communicate with everyone back home, keeping me in the loop no matter where I am.”

Rob Winterschladen, Consumer Director, Vodafone UK at Vodafone said, “The nation is made up of these often behind-the-scenes networks that exist on our phones. Our shared groups, messaging cliques and communities are some of the most important parts of our lives, but they are rarely celebrated.

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“And while we spend time ensuring our social media profile pics show our best selves, our group profile pics are often an afterthought. We want to celebrate and support the networks that make up the nation with an emblem of togetherness that Vodafone’s network delivers.”

The UK’s biggest photo booth will be open in Potters Field Park, Southwark, 12-13 June 2024, while a team of photographers in Edinburgh and Cardiff will be capturing images of the nation’s networks that can’t make it to the capital.

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Notes to Editors


*Survey of 2,000 UK adults who use social media and who are part of online groups, chats and forums, carried out by OnePoll between 30th May and 3rd June 2024.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

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