Want Real Talk? Stay off Snapchat.

Illustration by Austen Rogers/The Choate News

Snapchat has taken the place of real-life interaction, whether near or far.

It is routine for me to wake up, scroll quickly through my phone to check what I’ve missed in the time I was sleeping, and see a list of Snapchats from my friends, waiting impatiently to be opened. These selfies from my friends, usually morphed into grotesque proportions or tarnished by a pair of dog-ears, are simultaneously amusing and useless. Though these “ugly selfies” serve as indicators of how much trust my friends and I have in each other, there aren’t many other redeeming qualities to the art of Snapchat aside from wasting precious battery and data. Yet I still insist, like the majority of my peers, on perpetuating these pictures in the form of the mandatory daily ‘streak.’

Streaks are, in essence, why Snapchat has become an incessant burden within our daily lives. For those who have avoided this form of communication, a streak is a job for two: to obtain a streak with any given friend, both of you must send each other at least one snap a day. At three days, a streak appears, taking its form as the number of days that both you and a friend have snapped each other; it is lost when either person fails to snap the other within a span of 24 hours. Streaks are generally perceived as symbols of connection between two people, and denotes that the two are in constant contact with each other. Thus, longer streaks suggest stronger connections between friends, and ‘losing streaks’ by forgetting to snap a friend in the space of 24 hours is seen to many as a mark of neglect or betrayal.

Needless to say, “keeping streaks” is tough. I often find myself so hampered with other problems in life that I have come, on many occasions, to nearly forget to send a snap to each of my friends in a given day. It becomes difficult to find time or reason to bother with taking an aesthetic picture and sending it to a long list of friends and acquaintances, only for them to usually be dismissed right after being opened.

Why, then, do we insist on going out of our way to sustain those little numbers next to our names on Snapchat?

Though we all have inevitably different perceptions of streaks, I think that all our reasons boil down to one: streaks are an easy way of keeping in touch with a large group of friends at once without having to make real-life contact with any of them. Those selfies masked with dog filters we send to our friends serve as a reminder that we still care about them, attempting to make the most minimal of contact with them everyday. This is especially beneficial at a school like Choate, where many of us are too caught up in our own lives to communicate with others. Streaks provide a cheap and somewhat effective way to remind friends of our pre-existing connections. Theoretically, this doesn’t sound too bad —keeping streaks means we can stay in contact on the busiest of days with most of our friends.

However, streaks create a fundamental social problem. In making constant communication between people so easy, streaks negate the need for real-life interaction. It has become so easy to show our affection for others through digital stickers and “streak-snaps” that as a result, there is less of a need to maintain personal connections in real life. Though streaks between friends may act as concrete proof that they communicate on a day-to-day basis, exchanging useless selfies to each other hardly constitutes genuine communication. Only so much affection can be communicated through emojis.

Streaks, though harmless by themselves, cannot replace real-life interactions. Tapping idly at a screen does not equal face-to-face conversation, and yet some of us forget that this is the case. Admittedly, I am very guilty of treating a Snapchat streak as adequate communication between my friends and I. And I have felt the inevitable regret and loss of real human communication as a result.

Life is a lopsided balance of communication via screen and communication in person. Though it may be tempting to overcrowd a friend’s phone with your dog-filtered selfies, all I ask is that we remember that our relationships are so much more than just a little number on a screen.

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