By Annie Zhang
Some people are afraid of heights. Others are anxious around spiders. However, for many teenagers nowadays, a greater fear is losing a streak on Snapchat–an ephemeral photo sharing app.
Many people, upon seeing the hourglass emoji next to their two hundred day streak, have a minor panic attack. Their hearts start beating faster. Their fingers shake. They rush to reply in order to save their hard earned achievement for two hundred consecutive days of communication. When streaks are eventually lost, it’s common to see people mutter curses under their breath or send sad face selfies to their friends. Parents interpret these reactions as irrational behavior and evidence of the negative impacts of social media. However, social media platforms like Snapchat are not inherently harmful. Snapchat was originally created with many positive intentions, but they are now masked by people’s unnecessary addiction to the app.
Firstly, Snapchat is a solution to stresses caused by the longev ity of personal information that is present in other social media platforms, such as pressure to showcase only the touched-up, trendiest aspects of yourself . Snapchat’s main function allows users to share self-deleting and short-lived images. While the fleeting nature of these photographs is sometimes exploited, leading to cyberbullying and other inappropriate behaviors, the impermanence of Snapchat mainly exists to help people show their life authentically–not just what is pretty and perfect. This means people don’t have to worry about photoshopping blemishes out of photos or untagging themselves from unflattering picture s. In fact, Snapchat was initially created by three Stanford students who wanted to emphasize a more natural flow of interaction and encourage casual communication with the full range of natural human emotion. The ability to send facial expressions helps people more clearly and organically transmit their thoughts without being restricted by social media permanence anxiety
Additionally, with the existence of Snapstreaks, a function that tallies the number of consecutive days people have interacted with eac h other, Snapchat tries to encourage more continuous communications. Avid Snapchat user sophomore Annie Dai said, “[Snapchat] keeps people connected, helps new friendship form, and prolongs friendships that may have otherwise ended.” Especially for those who don’t go to the same school or see each other often, Snapstreaks reminds people to keep in touch, even across long distances. Also, instead of only talking over the phone every other day or Skyping every couple of weeks, people can easily share multiple moments of their daily lives as they occur. Snapchat even has a “Story” function that allows users to post photos or short videos for all their friends to view, so even small, fleeting, humorous moments can reach an extended audience, thus helping people keep up with one another.
Although Snapstreaks and Stories originally have positive intentions, the functions become extremely dangerous and intrusive when users develop addictions to Snapchat. According to a study at Harvard University, social media platforms such as Snapchat trigger a dopamine high, which, like tobacco and drugs, compels users to continue coming back. Constantly using the app only reinforces users’ personal needs to keep all their streaks and post on their story. In fact, it’s common to see people give their account information to one of their friends to maintain all their streaks while they’re on vacation.
Wanting to share memories with others isn’t a bad thing; however, needing to share memories with others is. When taking pictures becomes a chore and life becomes dominated by thoughts such as “Where should I travel for my next picture?” or “Which photo will get the most views on my story?” or “Are all my streaks safe?”, social media is no longer beneficial and no longer healthy.
If the whole point of Snapchat is to help people develop long and self-sustaining relationships, what is the point of freaking out over losing a streak? Snapchat is for quick, expressive interactions and does not replace real life communications. In reality, even if a streak is accidentally broken, the friendship still exists and the loyalty remains. The strength of a relationship should not depend on the length of a streak but rather on the quality of real life interaction.