Snapchat and I

Junior experiments with new social media

Story by Raga Justin, news editor

Any one of my friends can tell you, I’m the worst about responding to text messages, calls, or notifications. Desperate pleas for last night’s homework, frantic calls to tell me the latest piece of news, urgent requests for a kidney— chances are I’ll miss it completely. I hate having to be tied to my phone constantly. Plus, my parents are pretty harsh about what they refer to as the “degeneration and crippling technological dependence of the modern generation” and, well, I’m a total wimp when it comes to parental disappointment.  Which is why Snapchat, in my eyes, is like the devil’s playground.  A breeding-ground for narcissism, a cesspit of shortened attention spans and really, really weird faces in the middle of a conversation. In short, a nightmare.  

But then Lent rolled around and there I was, stuck in that very playground, snapping selfies while the flames of hell licked at the monkey bars.

Background: my friend Ali decided to give up Snapchat for Lent, which was admirable, seeing as how devoted she was to it. But in order to preserve her 10+ streaks— those pesky little things that made you a slave to constant pictures of someone else’s face— she needed outside help. Enter me: clueless, naive, idealistic. I agreed to maintain her streaks for her for the next 40 or so days, but made a promise to myself first. Never, I vowed, never would I allow myself to be sucked in. I thought it would be a fun way to test my self-control.

And to tell you the truth, it turned out to be just fun. I liked being in the know, being able to participate in all those conversations that started with “Did you see so-and-so’s story…” which had hitherto been No Man’s Land to me. It was secretly entertaining sending ugly pictures of my face to people and receiving them in return. I acted in the manner of a Cold War CIA operative, ducking into closets and checking to see if the coast was clear on both ends before surreptitiously raising the phone and snapping. It takes a certain amount of nerve— at least for me— to snapchat in public, but I eventually worked up to it. And in some twisted, quintessentially 21st-century-millennial way, that could be the moral of this story. Never be afraid to take a picture of yourself looking constipated in the line at McAllister’s.

But in all seriousness, there I was, having bucket loads of fun with my new toy. For a while- the honeymoon phase, if you will- all was swell. For a nosy person, Snapchat is a dream. I watched people show me who they were with, what they were doing, where they were— and I didn’t even have to ask. It was like my own personal spy cam. I experimented with filters and explored a variety of new facial expressions.

And then the novelty wore off. Not that it wasn’t fun anymore- it was- but it was also a lot of work. Also, it gave me heart palpitations. I’d sit up in the middle of the night, sweaty and terrified, wondering: “Did I forget to snapchat —-? Did I just lose a streak?” If I’m going to be sitting up in the middle of the night, I’d like the issue at hand to be just a bit more important than a lost streak, thank you, like maybe an existential crisis or a bit of soul-searching. This just showed me I was getting a little too attached. And yes, it was making me check my phone constantly, curing me of my earlier neglect- but was that something I really wanted? To be perpetually glued to a little box in my hand, walking around like a mummified zombie in desperate need of fresh air and a healthy dose of the sun?

No, I decided one week into my affair with Snapchat, that’s not what I wanted. A week after that, I was firmly entrenched in a vicious cycle of procrastination and absolutely no inclination to do my homework. I have a full academic plate, and it really didn’t help me at all when, one weeknight, I snapchatted until 10:30, at which point I panicked thinking about my three (three!) tests the following day and then proceeded to snapchat some more while reflecting upon my dilemma. The next day, needless to say, was brutal.

It wasn’t just that sudden inability to concentrate, either. I had even less time to spend with my family, because I was in a full-time relationship with that little ghost that kept popping up on my screen. In the time I usually spent downstairs away from my usual solitude, it became harder to set my phone aside and forget all about it. There was a constant nagging in the back of my mind- that barrage of pictures isn’t going to be opened by itself, a little voice whispered.

 A lot of people have complained about our generation. And to tell you the truth, after using Snapchat for more than a month, I’m inclined to agree with them. Regular social media is bad enough, but Snapchat brought us to the brink. Now, more than ever, it is possible to document in the minutest detail what you’re doing throughout the day, something American teens have been obsessed with ever since those bygone days when Facebook updates could be counted on to appear bi-hourly. And with these new advancements comes a tidal wave of self-absorption, where looking like you’re having a lot of fun is paramount.

But that’s about as profound as I get. Yes, Snapchat is incessant and shallow and, frankly, it’s a little alarming to imagine a bunch of grown-up millennials hanging out in corner offices, posting stories that say “Just killed that merger” or perhaps “Got fired today, but it’s all good”. I wonder if we’ll watch our friends deliver their babies— “Glad y’all got to witness the miracle of birth with me!”— or follow them along as they file their taxes— “Hope the IRS leaves me alone now lol”. Then again, who am I to judge? I see the appeal of Snapchat— in an era defined by the short-term, it’s the perfect channel for temporary communication.

By the time Lent rolled to an end, I had gone through all the stages of a short-lived relationship, and was ready to throw in the towel and admit that we couldn’t make it work. But on that Saturday night before I relinquished what had been my daily companion for the past 40 days, I found myself wistful and reluctant to give it up. Snapchat wasn’t all bad, I realized, not by a long shot. It was sometimes tiresome and requires more upkeep than I ever thought possible for something that was pretty meaningless. But just like that ex that you can’t quite shake, Snapchat stayed with me.

And that’s why you should follow me, @ragajus. I can’t promise Snapchat and I will be together forever, but for now, we’re giving it a shot.