I got a Snapchat this Week

Elisabeth Oster, Editor-in-Chief

  I got a Snapchat this week. After years of people asking me what my username was and consistent comments pointedly directly me towards what I was “missing out”—I relented. Instantly, I was encased in a world where I could see where someone was the last time they opened Snapchat and know how our zodiac signs complemented each other. All of a sudden, I had people I hadn’t talked to in over a year randomly send me a picture of half of their face in dim lighting that felt like a screen grab from a found-footage film. No words. Just a nonsensical picture. I sat there wondering: Is this how you communicate? What’s the point? And how on earth do you even respond to a picture of a picture of someone’s carpet?
  According to the Pew Research Center, 78 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds regularly utilize Snapchat. If an individual has Snapchat installed on their phone, it is highly likely that Instagram and Twitter have also found a comfortable place on the device. The landscape of what communication is drastically changing, in a way that is not for the best. Despite the adverse feelings I felt towards my first days on Snapchat, it wasn’t hard to get into the rhythm of sending a daily, meaningless picture to each person; it was just like having a normal conversation with my friends—only they’re now mute and grumpier versions of themselves.
  In a study presented by Time Magazine, less than one-third of teens prefer communicating face-to-face, with 35 percent favoring texting followed by 16 percent loyal to the messaging provided through social media platforms. How teens interact each other is one of the largest factors signaling a future that would crumble without the foundation of a pristine social media image and an exaggerated personality reliant on a brigade of emojis and sporadic capitalization.
  It is certainly not surprising that platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat are linked to loneliness and depression—flicking through curated lifestyles pleading for comparison with real, messy lives will do anyone’s head in. But what we don’t stop and think about is how social media is diminishing authentic relationships built on both earnest conversation and simplistic small talk.
  The virtual version of an individual never has to mean what they say and they don’t have to be honest. Or in Snapchat’s case, you don’t even have to say anything, so long as it looks like you’re putting an effort in by delivering that picture every day. When every parent, therapist, and friend enthusiastically proclaimed that commitment is the foundation of any strong relationship, I don’t think they meant your commitment to keeping a “snap streak” with them.
  Regardless, such achievements are slowly invading the traditional definition of what a relationship is. Rather than merely being someone you interact with in a significant, connected way on a regular basis, it could now be someone who is labeled as a “best friend” by the social media algorithm or someone who likes all of your Instagram. Relationships, and the communication that goes along with it, has transformed from a minefield to a game. Social media seems to agree, going so far as to award those who make the most impressions with other people behind screens with “trophies” and empty “points.”
  I am not insisting that you communicate via pigeon or Pony Express—technology has opened up countries and cultures to both the unity and diversity the world possesses. Technological communication has also revolutionized the workplace when it comes to team efforts and personal productivity. I’m just saying that if you ever hear me say LOL, BRB, SMH, or ILY in a real-life conversation, kindly show me to the door.