Understanding Unhealthy Relationships With Snaps and Timelines
Sure, social media can occasionally be an insightful tool in your life, but why do we feel the need to snap even the most insignificant of moments?
By Alec Cudmore, St. Edward’s University
We all have that friend who brings along their hot new significant other, Social Media, wherever they go.
Social Media is sweet but doesn’t always get along with everyone in the group. Social Media is sexy, but doesn’t always know how to dress for the occasion. Social Media is funny, but doesn’t always get the jokes.
Social Media has met you before but can’t quite remember your name.
Social Media is also the name of a conglomerate of forces in what is now a polyamorous relationship between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Your friend is dating them all. These apps work so effortlessly in tandem, they now manifest as a singular being. We have Twitter to broadcast and archive our totally cool, individual thoughts and follow celebrities doing the same. We have Facebook to chronicle our lives and literally build a timeline that we believe accurately displays our identities, experiences, image and values. We have Snapchat to show our friends who we’re hanging out with and what we’re doing and to assure ourselves we are not yet forgotten by these friends—or maybe it’s just for poops and giggles. Then we have Instagram which is essentially the lovechild of the previous three.
Don’t feel ashamed. We all do it sometimes. Our phones allow us this strange new ability to capture life much like we capture Pokémon. But what exactly draws the line between someone with a relatively healthy relationship with Social Media, and someone who has developed a very nasty habit?
If we look at our life moments as if they are, in fact, Pokémon we’re trying to capture, it’s safe to say we organize our moments based on rarity and desirability. Some Pokémon (moments) are cooler than others and harder to find. Here we have our Snorlaxes, our Mewtwos, and our badass legendary bird Pokémon. Let’s call these Mewtwo Moments. Then we have the less desirables that seem to show up all the time. The cursed Rattatas, Pidgeys, and those cute little Weedles. We may capture them if they stroll into our vicinity, but you’d be hard pressed to find a friend who would leap from a brunch table to go chase after a Pidgey in the street. Let’s call these Pidgey Moments.
In other words, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take your phone out during moments that feel like Mewtwo Moments, like if you’re watching your favorite band perform for the first time. Perhaps there’s a beautiful sunset you want to capture or a particularly hilarious scene with friends that you believe deserves a photograph. Now, this doesn’t mean your phone should be out for every Mewtwo Moment that passes you by. I leave it up to your best judgment to decide when you’d like to be living in the moment and when you’d like to be documenting it. Overall, I’d say Mewtwo Moments are totally worth capturing. Social Media can accompany you to these events without a second glance, so long as you use it appropriately.
But then we have these Pidgey Moments. These are the events, moments in time, where you don’t always feel like you want Social Media around. You’re sitting around eating chicken wings. You’re in your jammies, watching a movie with a few friends. You’re shopping for groceries. You can often spot those who have an unhealthy relationship with Social Media living in Pidgey Moments. These are moments that don’t really have any significance on their own, but are suddenly given a spotlight by an unwieldy Snapchat user.
An unhealthy relationship with Social Media begins when every single one of your Pidgey Moments start to feel like a Mewtwo Moment. And that, my friend, is a stressor you do not want in your life.
I’ll get this out of the way now: Snapchat is trash, especially when used by someone who is addicted to transforming their life into a live TV show—someone who has taken it upon themselves to start turning every Pidgey Moment into a Mewtwo Moment.
Snapchat is all the poison of Social Media without any of the benefit and seems to be one of the biggest culprits in cultivating unhealthy relationships with Social Media. It is the value of living in the moment, whether peaceful or exciting, completely desecrated by a perverse need to broadcast everything in non-permanent, tiny bursts of content. Snapchat doesn’t live around moments of your life—it infests the bones of these moments, the very core of any genuine human experience you may ever have. Snapchat is disrespectful to the essence of life and puts you into the mindset that nothing is happening, nothing is happening, unless the eye of Snapchat is watching over it all. You don’t respect the moment enough to be in it yourself, and don’t respect it enough to want to record it in any sort of meaningful way. It is the equivalent of having a conversation with someone who has one earbud in. They don’t give a shit about the world around them, who they’re with or even the music they’re listening to. They’ll take a little bit of both, mediocre as it is, and be on their merry way.
But wait Alec, isn’t Snapchat just a fun little diversion? Yes! It can be. Maybe to those with an inkling of self-control. I’m mostly describing someone with an unhealthy obsession with Snapchat. Sending wacky selfies to friends with funny messages? Okay, I can see that being fun. The occasional snap? Cool. That’s fine. But for God’s sake—when we are sitting on our asses watching a stupid movie, having a Pidgey Moment, and I see that friend, that one special friend, take out the phone and do the slow Snapchat pan (you know which one I’m talking about), multiple times, I want to scream. What about this needs to be seen by other people? What about this needs to be publicized? And why? “Snapchat me” isn’t actual me—I can feel myself falling into character when I notice someone is snapping something I’m doing. It’s a little thrilling, but mostly disturbing.
But wait Alec, isn’t there a way to save your Snapchat stories into memories? That’s cute right? No, that almost makes it worse because it encourages people to Snapchat even more. And why would you use Snapchat for that? There are so many better ways to record a moment for actual posterity.
Perhaps you have a more reasonable relationship with Snapchat—perhaps the people you know have a more healthy interaction with that aspect of Social Media. Perhaps you’ve never felt uncomfortable around someone sticking their phone at you while you sip your milkshake, or eat an apple or do any basic human function. It’s all for fun right? If so, that’s awesome. But the more our everyday Pidgey moments are subject to being recorded and monitored and broadcasted, the cheaper it all feels—Social Media included.
Trust me, I’m not perfect in this regard either. I’ve used Social Media for a long time. I know what it feels like to be addicted to broadcasting my life. I know how it feels to have a fun relationship with Social Media turn into a supplement for those quiet moments where it feels like nobody cares. An unhealthy relationship with Social Media is essentially the oversaturation of your life moments with a sudden loneliness—what if nobody sees this? Why don’t I have someone to share this moment with? It impacts all of us. Studies have shown Facebook can even cause depression, due to that dreaded thought: Why do I feel so alone? Why do other people seem happier than me?
It’s tempting to start capturing our Pidgey Moments as if they’re Mewtwo Moments because it helps with that loneliness a little bit. It turns the seemingly mundane into something that might even be fun. And that needs to be understood. Social Media can be good—it can help us feel connected. But people need to be aware that when the fun of it ends, it starts to become a problem.
If you’ve ever been in an unhealthy relationship with a person, you likely realize how bad it was only after the fact, and rarely when you’re in the midst of that relationship. The same can be said of your relationship with Social Media—with everyone you’ve ever met, essentially.
And just like in any normal relationship, sometimes you need to start asking yourself the hard-hitting questions. Why am I in this? Am I happy, or am I distracting myself from a bigger issue? Open communication with yourself is the key to learning how to live healthier and happier and to avoid becoming obsessed with Social Media. Social Media can be possessive, overbearing, abusive and alluring all at the same time. I’ve been there.
Your Pidgey Moments are quieter and often less glamorous than your Mewtwo Moments. But these moments are equally important—sacred even. Too important to start inviting everyone in with constant Social Media updates. Don’t be afraid of these moments. I know it’s easy to be. These moments should be for you, though, not everyone else in your life. They give you time to reflect, to live and, more importantly, to make those Mewtwo Moments all the more special.