I’ve never really been up to date with the latest and greatest social media trends, but I must say, I’ve never felt my digital age more than when I finally conceded and downloaded Snapchat two months ago before leaving to study abroad. Yes, you read that right: two months ago. I’m aware that I’m a few years late to this game.
What followed has been an interesting journey and a learning experience, to say the least. To make it easy for you, I have summed up my fledgling Snapchat experience in a series of questions:
1. Why do I feel so much like my parents?
I was expecting Snapchat to be funny and maybe mildly irritating, but I wasn’t expecting it to make me feel simultaneously old and child-like. Having to ask my friends constantly how to use the app, or what is acceptable as a snap or how to put emojis on photos, was a big struggle at the beginning. As my friend Rachel so graciously put it, “It’s like teaching a newborn how to walk.” I taught my mom how to use Facebook this summer right before I left so she could keep up with me. I thought she was the social media newbie, but now I’m thinking it’s actually me, and even my parents are better at this game than I am. Congratulations, Snapchat, for making me feel old and yet infantile at the same.
2. What is this new language?
If conveying messages through texting wasn’t hard enough, I now have to combine ultra-short snippets of text with emojis and pictures, and it’s mind boggling. How am I supposed to say anything of value on just that little black line of text?
However, it also strikes me as an incredibly creative way to communicate. The photos and emojis can help add some emotion to whatever it is I’m saying, and I can literally show someone exactly what I am talking about and put my comment directly on it. It’s the communication version of the meme movement, and it really fascinates me. It also opens up a whole new type of humor, which I can’t say I’m accustomed to yet.
3. Why do I feel the need to use an emoji when I’m already sending a picture of my face?
I’ve never been an incredibly theatrical person, so maybe it’s the fact that my face just isn’t as expressive in my snaps as I would like it to be, but honestly, I still feel really uncomfortable making ridiculous faces at my phone in public. The bottom line is that my snaps usually turn into some kind of mix of a semi-expressive face and some supporting emojis that represent what my face actually supposed to look like.
4. How do I respond to that? Do you really need a picture of my face?
I have to admit that I’m not that much fun to be friends with on Snapchat. I never know how to respond to other people’s snaps! I’ve been told by several people that no, they do not just want a photo of my face looking normal or happy – they want something more entertaining. As I have aforementioned issues with facial expressions, this makes things difficult, so I normally don’t respond to Snapchats. I know, I know, I’m horrible. But there are only so many ways to convey “hahahahaha!”
5. What makes a Snapchat screenshot-worthy?
It’s all about what’s funny. Honestly, I’ve come to the conclusion that Snapchat is really just another way to make people laugh and share experiences. I’ve learned that I probably wouldn’t screenshot a nice photo of food or a view (even though I appreciate the sharing of the experience), but I would screenshot a snap if it showed a friend doing something hilarious or ridiculous (even better if it has a witty caption).
6. What on earth is a “snap score” and why do I need it? Also, trophies?
I think this is one of the things I dislike the most about Snapchat. Why on earth do I get points for how many snaps I send or receive? It’s like a rating of how popular you are, according to Snapchat. And the trophies! It’s considered an achievement for me to send a Snapchat with a filter? Or send a video? I understand that Snapchat is trying to turn this into some kind of game and give users a sense of accomplishment, but I find that whole side of Snapchat to be pretty shallow.
7. Does this really help me keep in touch with people while I’m abroad?
Yes. Despite all my little struggles and my reservations against Snapchat, it really is a great tool for staying connected to all of my friends (regardless of continent or time zone). It’s great to see little snippets of what is going on in their lives, and it’s even more wonderful to see their faces every once in a while, even if I still have trouble deciding how to reply. The sum and substance of my experience with Snapchat is this: it’s a very social form of social media, and with that comes strange new social conventions. But Snapchat does do exactly what it’s meant to do: foster communication. It gives me one more platform to connect with people I love, so to me, it will always be worth it.