Let’s talk about snaps, baby
Ploy Kingchatchaval: Week One
My progress through the tawdry path of teenagerdom can easily be charted through social media.
A short-lived pre-teen love affair with Bebo led me quickly onto MySpace, as I left behind neon pink ‘skins’ for an edgier (because bands used it, obviously) and entirely more self-obsessed interface. In the halcyon days of MySpace, I perfected the art of the close-up, flash-heavy mirror selfie that featured more heavily-teased hair than actual face, and curated my Top 8 with the painstaking precision and focus I imagine other people doing real degrees possess in labs and lectures.
I discarded MySpace almost as quickly as I picked it up, rejecting blatant narcissism in favour of the hideously angsty and ~hipster~ realm of Tumblr, where I discovered a profoundly deep sense of personal validation amidst the treasure trove of pensive quotes superimposed onto blurry disposable shots, gifs of Ellen Page with hamburger phones, and inexplicable photos of beds floating in the middle of forests that I never found on the regimented pages of MySpace. ‘Yes,’ my fifteen-year-old self whispered as she pressed the ‘reblog’ button on a photograph of an exploding galaxy, ‘this is real. This is me.’
As the Tumblr gleam inevitably faded – there are only so many graphics of skinny girls smoking cigarettes that can be circulated on the World Wide Web – I reached for Twitter as my chosen medium through which to impart my quippy, oh-so-ironic wisdom. The 140-character limit felt like a challenge: what was the minimum number of words in which I could accurately express my sardonic observations of the hopelessly bemusing world around me?
And now, we find ourselves in good old 2015, and my most oft-used app of choice? Snapchat. The concept is intriguing and deceptively simple: temporary social media. Snap a photo, decide its life span, watch it disappear into the ether. Except, of course, in its current incarnation, that’s not where Snapchat’s appeal lies at all. An app that once boasted ephemerality as its most attractive feature has since rolled out a myriad of improvements which make it that much more permanent. You can now make that pulsating, roving clip of Sunday Life at 3am available for watching and re-watching for an entire twenty-four hours after the fact. You can now put a black-and-white filter and a looming skull emoji on a photo of your unfinished coursework draft. You can now save your masterpiece of a snap for your own personal enjoyment before sending it off to the masses.
I’m not saying Snapchat’s nifty new featurez are a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just interesting to note how an app that initially marketed itself as transient has developed to include check-in points and ‘save to gallery’ options to meet user demand. I’ve made it clear here how easy (and embarrassing) it was to dig up my online narrative, and looking back, that was probably my subconscious aim. We like having things to look back on, to hold on to: the prospect of leaving a piece of your exact self at one exact point in time to exist somewhere forever is supremely comforting.
The temptation to narrativise your life is an evitable one, I think, and it’s a temptation that is becoming increasingly easier, and speedier – snap, edit, send, screenshot – to fulfill.