I’m a late adopter of popular tech products and social media apps. Which is kind of ironic, because I’ve been helping big brands build their social media campaigns since 2008, and I’m pretty good at it. Perhaps, because I’m a tech-skeptic. I only joined Facebook because a co-worker guilted me into it. I fought really hard to revive my fried Dell PC in 2011, until an employer bought me a Mac. And after too many SIM card errors, I ditched my blackberry for an iPhone in 2012. I was late to the Instagram party in 2011. Now, in 2016 it’s safe to say I’m up to speed in the tech and social worlds. But Snapchat? Never. Ever.
Snapchat was for kids and Anthony Weiner. I actually didn’t know what it was until Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made a joke about it while hosting the Golden Globes in 2014. It was a visual language I didn’t understand. Then, big brands and magazines I follow on social media changed their profile pic to their Snapcode, to gain traction on there. Then Snapchat came rushing in like a Tsunami. All of a sudden all my friends were on it and I wasn’t. Facebook and Instagram started feeling like ghost towns.
Last April a client asked if I would cover one of their new store launches on their global Snapchat account. Embarrassingly, I admitted I had never used it before, but was willing to learn. I downloaded the app and tried to figure it out. I read articles aimed at people in their 30’s and 40’s written by teenagers on how to use it. On the day of the store opening, I ran around, talking to customers and store associates, taking goofy pictures and videos. I made them jump and dance, which led to laughs. My snaps were an instant success and I realized I was getting paid for something that didn’t feel like work. I got a message from the global head of communications that I was “slaying it on Snapchat” and that day they got a record high views on the snaps I posted. I was made for this. Mind you, I still didn’t know how to use geo filters and I had not discovered face filters.
But I upped my game. That night, a friend showed me how to use face filters. It was like getting drunk for the first time. It’s fun and it changes everything, but then you have a bit too much and eventually throw up. Except I was throwing up rainbows. I was a dog wagging my tongue, a goddess in a floral wreath and a then a face full of drag queen worthy makeup. I was making all these fun videos with face filters and texting them to my husband. He didn’t respond.
I got back home from my work trip and ramped up my Snapchat stories. I have a pretty cute dog, so he kind of became the star of my show. I started re-enacting Beyoncé and Gwen Stefani videos, face swapping with Britney Spears, taking selfies of my cute outfits and if I had any social plans, whomever I encountered was going on my Snapchat. I had to share everything—trips to see my family, concerts I attended, happy hours and random things I find funny. When I discovered face filters could work on my dog, I started bribing him with treats to perform on my Snapchat and it took my game to the next level. My life, according to my Snapstory, was a full time adventure.
There was no lack for social validation either. People have sent me messages on Snapchat that my feed is epic or if I would go to a party a friend would announce to their friends, “Doug has the best snaps. You have to follow him.” The more people validated me, the bigger my ego got and my Snap frequency went up.
But the reality of my Snapchat obsession? It’s causing major fights with my husband.
My husband is a very private person; he has good manners and reads The Economist. He’s kind of my polar opposite, which is actually why we’re a great match. He was not down for Snapchat and wasn’t a huge fan of me being on it trying to catalogue my daily existence. For the first couple of weeks I would try to get him in my Snaps. He would hide his face or walk away. He didn’t get it, but mainly because he wasn’t on it. I would try to show him my Snapstory each day, but he kind of didn’t care. Yet, I was trying really hard to get him to download the app. Which in hindsight was detrimental.
He downloaded the app in May because an investment banker friend told him that major brands are advertising on there and major media outlets have an editorial presence. As it loaded, I made a Snap about how I was excited that my husband finally joined. The problems began.
Little annoyances turn into bigger issues, especially when your significant other starts watching your daily Snapchat story. My little morning videos, sometimes in high heels might have been deemed an overshare, my singalongs with Mariah Carey or endless selfies with my dog while exploring nature made him roll his eyes. I don’t think he really understood why it was important to share all that. He asked, “You’re broadcasting everything you do, but these aren’t things you would do if you weren’t Snapchatting?” That’s only partially true. Who doesn’t want to slay around the kitchen in the morning in wedge heels listening to “Formation?” The only difference is, people who follow me now know I do this. What’s the big deal? I was having fun. Yet, my fun was starting to irritate him. And my dog.
I was perceived as being immature. From my perspective, I found a social media tool that was made for personalities like mine: fun, fun loving, creative, interesting and desperate for attention. It’s the perfect formula for Snapchat success. Ever followed someone on Snapchat that you think is kind of boring in real life? Well, so are their snaps. If you’ve got a great personality and a good sense of humor, Snapchat helps you, or rather me, shine. I was shining so bright, that Snapchat was like a fourth resident in our home, and it started taking up too much space and too much time.
Those overshares also became evidence against me.
I would say I was tired at 7 P.M. and he was like, “Why are you so tired? You Snapchatted that you woke up at 9:46am today.” Okay, that was true. Another time I said, “I have not had a chance to watch any TV this week. His response: “I think you were watching ‘Broad City’ yesterday afternoon. You posted sound bites on Snapchat.” Part of my Snapchat shtick is being self-effacing about how lazy I am or how, since I work for myself, I have more leisure time. A significant other who works 60 hours a week doesn’t find that cute.
I will admit, I became consumed by the app, to a point that borderlined on obnoxious. Everything became a Snapchat worthy opportunity—grocery shopping, a car wash, vacuuming and most importantly, date night. If I was driving and a good song came on, I’d pull over to make a music video. I started getting nasty messages about Snapping and driving. To which I posted a public snap that I pull over, thank you very much. (I’m a safe snapper.) The more I embraced this new medium, the more my husband clammed up. When we were out, I would try to secretly Snapchat, because I knew it annoyed him. I would take selfies with him in the background. He would see them later when he watched my story and get annoyed. He has made rare appearances in my Snaps, but in general, asks not to be in them. Which makes me push harder. I just didn’t get it.
A couple weeks ago I crossed a line, one that I genuinely regret. It was during dinner hour at home and something came up that was so Snap worthy that I was desperate to share it. Knowing he is private and sensitive to my Snap habits, I asked his permission to Snap it. He said no and he explained why. I heard him say no. His explanation of why he didn’t want me to share it was perfectly reasonable. I took a secret snap and shared it to my story. Two hours later he saw it.
Then he literally snapped. He had had enough. He looked at me, with this confused, disappointed look. He said, “If I asked you not to share that, and you shared it anyway, does what I say not bear any weight? Or do you just do what you want to do? Do you have no respect for things that are private and important to me? Do I have to worry that our home is open domain for your social media presence?”
Oh Snap. I heard what he said and I actually heard it. I messed up. I didn’t even know why I did it. So I started justifying why I needed to share it, why it’s so important and I reminded him I work in social media, so this is what I do. I put a spin on it, like holding down a finger on your face to apply a filter, and he saw through it. I was so embarrassed. I was under Social Media house arrest. I felt very sad.
Snaps are temporary; images and video that live in a story for only 24 hours. So then, why was it so important for me to secretly snap a detail of our dinner hour, after I was asked not to? In fairness to him, when I originally asked to take a Snap and he said no, I asked him why. He said, “Because I want this moment to be about us, I only want to share it with you. I don’t want to invite people into our dinner hour, which is our private time together.” It’s amazing to have a husband that can articulate that and ask for his needs to be met. So a Snap after that is a slap in the face. I apologized, but that didn’t really carry any weight. It’s one of those things where you can’t say sorry and fix it. You have to change your behavior and not falter. That’s how you earn trust. I’m working on that.
I started asking around to friends, if they have encountered this. Is social media starting fights their relationships? Yes, very much so. My story is actually not unique at all. Social habits are causing a lot of tension in relationships and families. I brought this issue to my therapist, because I’m seeking to understand it better. When I lay it out, what I did, I see that it’s like touching a wet paint sign, to see if it’s really wet.
My therapist explained it in terms of short-term validation/gratification versus long term reward:
“We want to be noticed, we want to feel validated, we want to feel a part of. So when you’ve posted in the past on social media, we’ve discussed that it’s driven by an impulse for short-term good feeling of validation or attention. But that often takes us away from the long term experience of really connecting with people, being honest with people, respecting people, being vulnerable to people, loving people. We’re not very present if we’re focused on the short term social media benefits.”
After he said that, I replied, “So this is basically a form of addiction? I want validation immediately so I’m willing to forego respecting other people’s space to get attention at all costs?” n perfect therapist form he asked me, “What do you think you are looking for in those moments when you need to Snapchat?”
I said, “I do try to curate my life to look and sound a certain way, but I openly admit that to people. My whole life I have suffered from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), but now with Snapchat I have a new fear: Fear of other people not knowing what I’m included in. I want people to see how much fun I’m having-so I Snap. I’m not missing out.”
What I might be missing out on, though, is true quality time with my husband. Having fights over Snapchat is not fun, or Snap worthy. Someone suggested I delete the App. No, not happening. There has to be a middle road. I’m being more mindful of when and where to snap. There is some progress being made though. I completely forgot to Snapchat the last two social events I went to. I had a good time, I was present, and none of my Snap followers were aware of it. When I got home I had that feeling like, “Oh I forgot to take a Snap…” But when you think it only lasts for 24 hours, who really cares? My marriage, my friendships, my family relationships, those are more valuable to me than an image or video with a face filter that only lasts for 24 hours. Yes, Snapchat is fun. But maybe in moderation? Maybe this is the beginning of a mindful Snapping journey. To be continued.
I did ask my therapist how to break the Snapchat addiction. He said that we can work on discussing how to set boundaries with Snapchatting in our next session. But I find that response to be very Snapworthy.
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