Today my eldest son set me a challenge; to do a Snapchat vlog via my story! What! All those words in one sentence rarely make sense. I know how to blog. I know how to do a piece to camera. But Snapchat?!?
All of this started on Friday. I’ve had a Snapchat account for a while. One of the things that I told myself was that any social media app the kids wanted, I would have to so I could check it out, walk with them online and make sure they were safe. So although Snapchat had been on my phone for a while now, I hadn’t even nearly begun to navigate its complexities.
On Friday night I took my son and his three friends to a Friendly Fires concert. I love the band so to share something in common is great. We all got our phones out to share the event; again something in common. However I felt ancient when my experience was shared on Facebook and theirs was shared on Insta stories, Snapchat stories, using filters, emojis, gifs and fast typing to display amazing works of art IN SECONDS! How did I get to be so old so fast?
Determined to fathom this new world out I made my first ever Snapchat story on Sunday with the relative safety of only having less than 10 followers, two of whom are my children. It took forever, but I managed to do three pictures (one of them a video) of the football match and even put a few gifs and emojis in there. Then came the challenge. Vlog a whole day at work!
So if you read my blog regularly you’ll know I’m a pretty challenge high lady. Set me a challenge and I’ll try my best to complete it. So armed with my phone, Snapchat account and very limited knowledge I set about the day.
It turned out that it was one of the most stressful things that I’ve done in a while. I had to reshoot videos that went wrong. I couldn’t press record and make a cup of coffee and the same time. I had a constant thought in the back of my mind of whether I needed to record this moment of my life or not. How would it look. What gifs to use. Should I add sound (how do I add sound)? The whole team got on board and helped. It was crazy.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Snapchat in the office today was that it was only used by people wanting to send naked pictures to each other. This has been mainly due to the few high profile cases in the past.
Snapchat is used to send photos, videos and messages (private and group) to your ‘friends’. Your friends, as in on facebook, can range from your bestest besties to people that you have an awareness about or those that you have never met before ever. The choice to accept ‘friends’ is the users. You can send ‘streaks’ to your friends (a streak is a count of how many consecutive daily photos sent via private message to one friend). Not sending a ‘streak’ can send a young person into panic mode. Imagine having a score of 700 streaks (almost 2 years of sending daily photos) and then having your phone banned or loosing it and not being able to send a streak! The anxiety would be huge! Snapchat is the highest downloaded social media app for Generation Z.
I called my sister on the way home and she asked about my day. “It’s been stressful” I said. I then I explained what I’d been doing. My sister is a McMillan physiotherapist and at this time of year a lot of her patients are dying. How trivial it must have sounded to her. But here’s the reality. What we think is trivial is actually a teenagers living nightmare. The thoughts of how many people will see my story; will it be more than yesterday? Am I funnier/sexier/more thoughtful than my last post? What if I’m not liked? Was that the right filter to use in that light?
We all see stats of social media linked to poor mental health. Today my mental health was low recording the story. When my two followers (both children and a friend – thank you friend) saw my story I was elevated. The ‘likes’ that we get on social media is an endorphin hit – it makes us feel good. Imagine mixing the endorphins of ‘likes’ with the lows of negative comments or ‘trollers’.
The trouble is our young people are dying. They are not only physically dying, as in killing themselves because of online bullying; but they are dying to who God made them to be. God designed each and every one of us with a purpose and a plan. Nobody else can do what you were created to do – and I don’t just mean what you are paid to do. We need to support our young people and help them navigate this world on social media, even if we haven’t got a clue what a gif is and have no idea how to take a selfie without seeing three chins.
My middle child refuses to have any social media. He feels under pressure all the time to perform and would rather be just himself with his friends, the way that most of us spent our childhood. However he is a rare exception. My other two children have Snapchat. They use it because all their friends are on it, you can share photos and messages with your friends without using up phone storage and they find it easy to use.
My daughter said that she feels that girls in particular are under pressure to take great photos using filters that make themselves feel beautiful to the world. However, my comment was but the world already knows what they look like as they hang out with them in school all day! This kind of masking and feeling the need to look perfect to the outside world is so very real. I watched a documentary by Jesy from Little Mix about social media bullying and how that tipped her over the edge to the point of trying to commit suicide. I watched her healing process and saw how very fragile she still was and the toil that it took on the band and her family.
This issue is real. This issue is what our young people face now. Please don’t bury your head in the sand. Walk alongside them. Make a Snapchat story. Be authentic. Build them up. Help them see how precious they are in God’s eyes. And above all else, pray for them.