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Snapchat is more pressure than my ego can handle

Commentary: I've had a realization about Snapchat -- and myself -- and it’s too real for social media.


Hello, my name is Daniel and I'm a 24-year-old Snapchat hater.

I know millennials are supposed to be all about Snapchatting their smashed-avo brunches, but it's just too much for me.

When I first heard about Snapchat in 2013, I was sure it would fail. Send pictures? That expire after a few seconds? Do people sext enough for this to become a thing?

To my shock, people mainly used the app for reasons unrelated to sexting -- or maybe I'm just running in the wrong circles. The snaps I got were selfies and pictures of organic coffee, or, if I was lucky, a video of my friend's German Shepherd being a good boy. He's always such a good boy.  


But while the world has come to expect mundane snaps, I can't deal with the pressure. "Is this funny?" I'd ask myself before answering, "No Daniel, signage for a town called Sackville is not funny." (OK, that's a bad example: I would have definitely Snapchatted that sign were I not driving.)

Facebook and Instagram are often used frivolously, but Snapchat is next level. It never pretended to have any purpose above cutesy sharing, but there's a thin line between that and boring narcissism. That's a line I don't trust myself to walk.

The unspoken rule on Facebook, and even more so on Instagram, is that you don't post more than once a day. How do we know this is a rule? Because as you read this paragraph, friends who break it spring to mind, accompanied by an eyeroll.

Snapchat isn't like that. The whole point is to document as much of your day as possible. When I try to do this, I usually end up deciding my life watching Japanese wrestling and tracking my calorie intake just isn't interesting enough. 

Despite this, the app has stayed on my phone. The Stories feature, which lets you link a series of pictures and videos for friends to watch unlimited times within a 24-hour period, is a decent way for me to follow my friends' doings, unfettered as they are by the fear of social media mediocrity.  

Still, I just never really got Snapchat. That is, until last year when Facebook began cutting Snapchat's grass. In August, Mark Zuckerberg took Stories -- essentially the entire Snapchat app -- and squeezed it into Instagram.

That's when I realised what Snapchat is really about: the numbers. It's all about the numbers, man.

When you post something to Stories in either app, a counter shows how many people have viewed it. It can be addictive to see how high you can go, but this is less satisfying in Snapchat for two reasons: The number will be much higher on Instagram, and it's harder to tell what ratio of friends looked at your smashed-avo on Snapchat because it's harder to know how many friends you have on Snapchat to begin with.

To find out, you have to go into the app and manually count -- like, with numbers -- each person on your friends list. Meanwhile, your Instagram page tells you how many followers you have. Chances are there are many more there than in Snapchat, since Instagram has over triple the users. 

Those numbers check out. When I eventually tried Instagram's Story function -- after months of giving it the stink eye for stealing off Snap -- I got three times the views I did on Snapchat. This means three times as many people got to see my dog, Jess, in all her glory.

And that means I'm a little closer to filling the void in my soul with sweet, sweet social media validation.


Social media is all about the validation, and it's probably making you sad. Pic of my dog Jess unrelated. 

Daniel Van Boom/CNET

Have we admitted to ourselves yet that validation is mostly what we use social media for? I've come to terms with this. It's become a game: Each post, be it on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, needs to get more likes or views than the last. If you lose, studies confirm, you feel empty and alone. If you win, you also feel empty and alone -- but there's at least a quick dopamine hit in there somewhere.

Y'all got any more of them likes? The pressure to get them is there on all social media, but it's easier to deal with once a fortnight on Facebook than four times a day on Snapchat.

Much as you might hate to acknowledge the social-capital rat race, I'd bet it's the same for a lot of you. It was essentially bred into the generation that grew up with MySpace and Facebook, and now the one with Twitter and Instagram.

Whether or not this is healthy behaviour (it's most definitely not), it does mean Snapchat may have a problem on its hands.

Snap's app has 166 million daily users. Instagram has 400 million everyday users, and a whopping 700 million in total. Facebook also integrated Snapchat functionality into its actual Facebook app, but it doesn't seem to have taken off, at least among my friends.

Of my 837 Facebook friends, roughly none of them have Stories up right now. Meanwhile, there are 40 up on Instagram -- out of 290 that I follow. Over on Snapchat, there are 15 Stories up.

You see where the numbers are going here?

Bottom line: Instagram can offer more of those precious ego-stroking views. So what do we need Snapchat for?

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