Well, I guess the number one reason I’m on Snapchat is rooted deeply in my psyche. I always wanted to be a dragon for Halloween and because of gender bias stereotypes in the 1970s I was coerced into being a princess year after year instead. With Snapchat filters, I can realize my dream while parked in my driveway—no glue gun or sewing skills required.
Just kidding. I always got to pick my costumes. I’m on Snapchat because I have teenagers—and not for the reasons that may immediately come to mind like monitoring their activity and just plain understanding what they’re up to on their phones. Articles about managing your children’s social media have been written. Heck, we’ve written one.
No, this is more of a “if you can’t beat them, join them” sort of thing . . . or maybe it’s more like a “beat them at their own game” deal. Either way, I sound uber-competitive and that was not my intent. My point is that I’m on there to interact with them through their preferred mode of communication. My theory is that if I make it easy for them, I am going to get more frequent interfaces with them. I bet your grandma loves letters, but when was the last time you sent one? Hmmm?
This grooming them to share their day with you may seem trivial when you can just get the recap around the dinner table or on the way to lacrosse practice. It can cause a mild panic attack when it hits you that you are sending your babies away to college.
This has nothing to do with “helicoptering” either. It’s just that some of my favorite people in the world are the ones I created and I like to see their fun and joy. Just because they have the freedom to spread their wings and leave the nest doesn’t mean we have to be incommunicado. That’s not how family works.
My descent into Snapchat began when my senior in high school went with her marching band to Disney World. I felt fine sending her on her own because in seven extremely short months she would be on her own in college anyway. It’s just I was bummed missing out on the fun of it all. I love Disney and I ADORE watching my kids experiencing it. With Snapchat, she was able to quickly share tidbits (like taunting me with the balmy temps) and I could follow her “Story”—the photos she strung together to represent her day.
Do you feel like I have crossed over into a different language? Watch this quick tutorial I put together. Many of my friends complain that Snapchat is not intuitive, but they didn’t have two teenagers giving them the guided tour. I tried to recreate the same thing for you . . . minus the exasperated eye rolls.
I do recommend downloading the Snapchat app to your phone and opening it up for the first time before watching the video so that it makes some sort of sense to you.
Also, here are two terms to help you orient yourself as you get started. (You can view more here, but once again, they will not make much sense until you tool around the app a bit.)
- Snap: a video or a picture captured and shared on the Snapchat app.
- Story: Snaps shared to all of a user’s Snapchat friends are compiled into a series of photos or videos called a Story. Unlike individual Snaps, which disappear almost instantly, Stories stay on the app for 24 hours. The snaps sequentially disappear as they reach their 24 hour expiration marks. Snapchat users may also download their own Stories to keep a permanent record of each day’s events, if desired.
Here’s Why I Like Snapchat
- It doesn’t last forever. I like to think of them as the telephone conversations of yore. It’s communication in the moment without a trail (and without taking up storage on your phone). While you can replay a Snap, you’d better do it quickly because you only have a minute or two.
- It is communication on-the-go. While you might annoy your college freshman with a “check-in” call or text while they are in the middle of something, they seem to always be up for sending a goofy face.
- It shows your interest. Getting on Snapchat should be the opposite of stalking your kids on social media. It’s about fun and showing your kids they’re important enough for you to meet them where they “live.”
- It lets me know where I am. This was an unexpected bonus. When we were traveling up to Boston University this past spring, I could snap a picture along our way up I-95, swipe right, and the geofilters would tell me exactly where we were. (Note: not all locations have geofilters.) I could also check my husband’s speed without being obvious. Ahem.
- It has given me unexpected insights. Back to Boston University. My daughter and I followed the School of Communication “Story” and it made a huge impact on her decision that students were still wearing parkas to class in April. And there was snow on the ground. In April.
- It has given me cool points. My kids’ friends CANNOT believe I am on Snapchat. Added bonus is that I can stay in touch with them even when they are no longer parading through my house because my daughter is off to college. (The “sob” is implied.)
- It’s just for me. This point might just pertain to myself and bloggers like me, but this is my only social media account that is not a “platform” for me (although some bloggers are using it that way to fabulous ends like Mommy Shorts.) I can just go on here to play, not create content for the world.
Minor Etiquette Points
- Inform your teen before jumping on and explain you are doing it to communicate . . . and get the kickin’ filters. My youngest daughter usually blocks me from viewing her story . . . and I’m okay with that. If she wants to send goofy things to her friends (don’t worry, we have the sexting/bullying/strangerdanger talk about ever 52 hours), I don’t have to be a part of it. I liken it to the way I would have felt if my parents listened on the extension to my teenage phone conversations. (Could there be a more 80s sentence than that?)
On the flip side, she is the only one I have a “Snapstreak” with. Once you and a friend have Snapped each other (not Chatted) within 24 hours for more than one consecutive day, you start a “streak” . . . and the pressure builds not to break it. I broke our last one and I’m still hearing about it.
- You don’t have to respond to pictures by sending a Chat. One of the reasons often cited for teens’ love of the app is that it reduces the pressure for feedback in terms of “likes” and comments. When sending pictures and videos, teens don’t have to worry about whether their “like count” will indicate their level of popularity like it does on Instagram.
With that being said, my friend, the profoundly talented, outrageously hilarious Rebecca from Frugalista Blog sent me this Chat when I was posting all those Snaps on My Story as examples.
Chats like these are ALWAYS welcome, no matter what any whipper-snapper says. Just know that the pressure is off because people don’t expect you to respond.
- If you do need to respond to the under-20 set, they will probably expect a Snap back. Either just take a random (often blurry) picture of the floor or wall, and caption your response on it or you can take a selfie of your expression.
This is not everything by far, but I hope it helps. The biggest takeaway is that if you have teens, you are missing out on a huge way to connect if you are not on Snapchat with them. Also, don’t be afraid to swipe and tap around on the app. You never know what you’ll unlock.
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