Wasting time with the Snapchat syndrome

By Isaac Simon


As the long and somewhat tumultuous Passover weekend came to a close and I prepared to leave my Greenwich Village apartment to catch the bus back to the University of Massachusetts, my sister insisted on a goodbye photo before my departure. She does this quite often whenever I visit home. I know that this ritual will always conclude my stay.

The problem is that she doesn’t hold on to the photo. In fact, she barely looks at it. Of course, this doesn’t mean the photo isn’t important or that I let my level of social consciousness get in the way of the photo being taken. It does, however, make me think.

My sister’s ritual is by no means unique. It takes place on Snapchat, the popular social media app that takes photos and videos that can be shared with friends for up to 10 seconds. But what is really scary about all of this is that the photo my sister “snapped” to her cell phone contacts is sent away into the stratosphere to people I don’t know and will probably never meet.

For my sister, along with the other 30 million active Snapchat users per month, this ritual has become commonplace. This Snapchat surge has taken over major parts of the globe from Sweden to Saudi Arabia to Australia.

This surge in popularity can be explained. Sixty four percent of Facebook users between 16 and 19 years old have admitted to using the site less, while 54 percent of teenagers admitted in a survey by Tech Times “that their (Facebook) login habits have dropped due to a lack of interest.” Snapchat has gone in the opposite direction, with an increase in usage of 56 percent since the beginning of 2014, according to Tech Times.

The reasoning for this current trend is unimpressive. A basic lack of interest does not seem like a plausible justification for such facts. Teenagers, now more ever, have grown increasingly impatient. The patience the average teenager once had in order to sign onto Facebook has slowly evaporated.

The acts of uploading photos (although people still do it) and writing on people’s walls are no longer seen as convenient as sending a photo that is gone shortly after it appears. Moreover, during my brief weekend in lower Manhattan, the number of people who walked the streets with their heads down and concentrating on their phones or stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a Snapchat selfie of themselves amounted to dozens upon dozens of individuals.

I never thought I would live in a world where the act of taking a soon-to-be-evaporated photograph of a beautiful spring day trumped the option of simply enjoying the weather. I was raised to walk with my head up but everyone around me has conditioned themselves to keep their head down.

With patience out the window, it makes perfect sense that 10-second moments would appeal to the average adolescent today. With more than 400 million “snaps” sent per day, companies and news organizations have also contributed to this feeding frenzy.

Now, before you sit down to watch the Academy Awards, you can follow the Oscars’ Snapchat story on your smartphone, which has come to act as a “live” prelude to the red carpet show. What is even odder is that many people continue to use Snapchat as they watch the Oscars or any other high-profile national event. The multi-tasking never ends and the insanity continues.

During the second night of Passover, a few of my cousins were using Snapchat on their phones – only this time, instead of sending or receiving photos, they were watching the “NYC Story,” Yone of the many live stories featured on the social media app. Perhaps the only reason I found that odd was because all three of them were in New York City. It is as if one’s level of self-enjoyment only extends to the next “snap” received.

Although I alluded to this habit being commonplace, it is more than that. Those who use Snapchat incessantly are those who best represent this in-between phase permeating our culture.

We want to be active members of society and yet what is achieved is a type of communication that comes only through a screen. This is especially true when 71 percent of Snapchat users are under the age of 25.

This in-between phase has become one of obligation. Although the picture my sister sent of me was cute, it wasn’t necessary. Furthermore, the fact that it has become a reoccurring element of our relationship is a testament to how obligatory the task has become.

If one’s entire life is “snapchatted” for friends, family and the world to see, then that person has a certain responsibility to uphold when it comes to producing further Snapchat stories in the future. It therefore divulges into a cycle of its own.

Now, I am not saying that Snapchat and other social media outlets should be done away with. They bring necessary attributes to our environment. But when “snaps” make you incapable of living in the moment, it becomes a further disservice to our society.

With all of the campus snow now melted, it’s time to better incorporate person-to-person interactions into our daily lives. Snapchat is a platform used to project an image but now it’s time to care about how this image is being projected.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]