My relationship with Snapchat had been quite lukewarm until recently. It all started about a year after the Snapchat craze had begun when I finally decided to give in and download the app. Sending pictures individually to my friends of silly faces or things that I saw that reminded me of them was fun, and I purely used the app to brighten someone else’s, or my own, day. It was a low commitment, positive thing that kept me connected to friends in a silly, lighthearted way. Unlike other forms of social media that I was using at the time such as Instagram and Facebook, Snapchat was goofy and that was all.
Then came the integration of the infamous Snapchat story. Almost overnight, every Snapchat user’s relationship with the app spiraled out of control. Suddenly, the app became more capable than ever imagined and was no longer meant for you to send stupid selfies to your friends. It became another form of “serious” social media that was public to all of your friends simultaneously. As I am with all technological advances, I was skeptical and slow with picking it up. I didn’t quite understand the use of the story feature, but soon enough I was hooked.
Snapchat was a method of validating my life. Every time I went somewhere out of the ordinary or was with interesting people, I would automatically feel the urge to post to my Snapchat story. It got to the point where I felt as though I was just doing things for the sake of a good Snapchat story. Even worse, when I was actually doing something worthwhile, I would feel the urge to stop what I was doing in order to document it. Without a Snapchat, it didn’t happen.
That was all fine, though. A little obsession is healthy, or at least normal and accepted. After all, what teenager isn’t addicted to social media? But then I realized the ugly side of what I was doing. Why did I feel the need to constantly post a Snapchat? Self-Validation was certainly a major contributor but there was definitely something more, something malicious. I realized that I was doing it to make other people jealous. I felt as though Instagram and Facebook served the purpose of connection- it was more passive and requires less effort to be involved. Moreover, these two platforms are more widely used for professional, artistic, and other productive reasons. Snapchat purely entertained my desire to inflict envy.
Instead of shocking me into boycotting Snapchat right then and there, the thought washed over me and I continued with my obsession.
Then college came around, the time when “normal” is given a new, unfamiliar definition and everything you think you know about yourself is uprooted, your sanity tested, and your routines and patterns turned upside-down. Desperate to assimilate and make fast and lasting friendships, college students use Snapchat religiously to stay connected and in the know… at least it feels that way. Everyone has an account and the friending frenzy at parties and any other social gathering is oftentimes overwhelming.
Amidst one of these frenzies, it came to my attention that one of my fellow dance team members, Grace, did not have a Snapchat account. She had an iPhone, a sense of humor, an exciting life and a great group of friends… so why on earth wouldn’t she have a snapchat?
“I think it’s ridiculous that our generation feels the need to Snapchat every little thing that happens just to prove to other people that we’re having fun,” Grace explained, “and we should really just be happy with ourselves and not what other people think of us”.
At first, I didn’t understand her. Snapchat was such a normal part of my life and I needed it to know what people were up to… or did I?
Once you have a certain number of friends on Snapchat you begin picking and choosing which stories are worth your time being as almost everyone has something posted and your freshly shortened attention span doesn’t afford you enough time to watch all of them. I started thinking about how I chose which stories to watch and found that I wasn’t choosing them based upon my genuine interest in what my friends were up to. Often, I would completely skip over the stories of the people I cared about most. It was absolutely disgusting; I was choosing to watch stories that made me feel bad about myself.
We’re all familiar with the fear of missing out (deemed “fomo” for short by us innovative millennials), but this was a whole new breed. I was constantly comparing my life to the lives of the people in these Snapchat stories. I would get hurt seeing that a group of my friends were hanging out without me, that a friend of mine got a new car that I knew I couldn’t afford, that my roommates were having a great time with their families while mine were 3000 miles away, that everyone seemed to be having a great time while I was just watching from the outside. It was the perfect recipe for self pity, and boy did I pity myself every single time I opened the stupid app.
It abruptly came to my attention that nothing on Snapchat was going to make me feel better about myself. Being a college freshman feeling a lot more like fresh meat, I somewhat spontaneously decided to delete the app. As soon as I did, a massive rush of relief swept over me. There’s absolutely nothing like it. The pressure to make my life seem exciting has diminished, and more importantly, I realize that the saying “ignorance is bliss” is definitely applicable in this situation. I don’t necessarily know exactly what my “friends” are up to nor what they were doing last night and I don’t really care to know. Those who I actually care about keep me involved in their lives without the assistance of social media. There are too many “Snapchat worthy” moments in my life to capture them all and it is so much more valuable to just live them. I understand that people’s Snapchat stories aren’t accurate representations of their lives since I wouldn’t say that mine were either. My life is so much better and more meaningful than what was posted on my story.
I check my phone less. I am present more. I am less obsessed. I am more aware. Me Snapchat-less is a much better me.
And the best part? I don’t miss it one bit.
Grace Fanikos: you rock.