A few weeks ago, I did what some would say is unforgivable: I deleted Snapchat. To be completely honest, I was scared of the reactions from my friends, but breaking free of the virtual chains (A.K.A. my Snapchat streaks) felt liberating. Deleting Snapchat turned out to be a very healthy move for me, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.
Most people who use Snapchat don’t just use it to have conversations with their friends, or post about their lives; they use it to keep “streaks.” Snapchat streaks are the propelling force in causing users to open the app. For those who are technologically “unhip,” a Snapchat streak is the badge of a ‘flame emoji’ that appears next to the name of a person whom you have Snapchatted for several consecutive days. In addition to the emoji, you can see the number of days that the streak has lasted. If you fail to Snapchat that friend one day, you lose the “streak.”
Most teens spend an excessive amount of time keeping their streaks alive. It’s not uncommon for users to get so invested in the app that streaks continue for over a year. “Snapchat [employs] a really smart marketing strategy. It definitely binds you to the app through streaks,” says Junior Claire Wolsk. This can sound pretty trivial for adults and nonusers but, for many teens, losing a streak can result in frustration and sadness.
Streaks represent different things to different people. For some users, a streak can be a measure of how much they care about certain friendships. If they’re good friends, they will be driven to keep the streak. If they don’t care much about the friendship, they’ll kill the streak without mourning. Some treat streaks as a business: something they have to put work into in order to maintain, clearly seeing the results of their work in numbers.
A Snapchat streak can begin as harmless, but this obsessive way of communication can easily grow to become problematic. “I think I go on [Snapchat] way too much and, if it weren’t for Snapchat, I’d be so much more productive. There are times when I will constantly check it to see if I have notifications,” Wolsk maintained. The anxiety that accompanies the notion of keeping a streak with someone is anything but healthy. It’s important to remind ourselves that keeping a streak with someone is not the same as keeping a friendship with someone, but sometimes the idea of friendship and a tangible streak can get conflated. “Streaks are annoying, but sometimes they feel necessary in order for me to keep some of my friendships when I don’t see people often,” says junior Jordyn Lemer. If someone uses Snapchat once a day to ‘#DoItForTheStreak,’ it might be time to reevaluate their ideas on healthy relationships.
The investment in streaks is becoming too serious. Having the fire emoji next to someone’s name doesn’t mean you should feel obligated to send a meaningless picture to someone for 100 more days. Many of us have become guilty of the “streak” snap, but it’s important to remember the word “streak” is not a conversation. They say that a picture paints 1,000 words, but a black screen that says “streak” only paints one.
Remember that you are more than a number. When you think back on yourself later in life, you will remember IRL (in real life) memories with your friends, not those many days in a row you communicated through a screen. We’ve all been there; keeping a Snapchat streak with the person you like is fun. But if this meaningless number is the only way you two communicate, it’s time to realize that the spark isn’t there and that they don’t deserve your selfies.
My last piece of advice is that you can do it. Ridding yourself of these virtual chains will not result in FOMO (fear of missing out). You can still snap a person to stay in touch, but if you only snap this person to lengthen a number, then you’re doing the friendship thing wrong.
By Ilana Zeilinger’19