Last week I was dragged, metaphorically kicking and screaming, into my own generation: I finally downloaded Snapchat. Despite the fact that almost everyone I know chats the snaps, and despite the fact that I am decidedly in the sweet spot of the Millennial generation that was responsible for the rise of these such apps in the first place, I managed to hold off on this app for an impressive five years. (Yeah, that's how long we've had Snapchat. Feel old AF yet?) I never thought it was something I'd enjoy — but here I stand on the other side of this download, every bit as addicted to the snapping of chats as all my fellow fore-Millennials, all in the course of one short week.
There are a myriad of reasons why I held this off for so long. First off, our very first perceptions of Snapchat came in the awkward sauce of my undergraduate days, when Snapchat became briefly infamous as an app people were using not just to "send pics" but to "send pics ;))))". Once it molted and shed that skin to become the filtered wonderland that it is today, I personally found the interface to be super unintuitive. I am a 24-year-old tech-savvy individual who felt like an 82-year-old grandma from a smart phone commercial when I first tried to navigate the screens. It's a miracle I made it out alive.
But I persevered like the true American hero that I am and figured out how to work this gosh darn thing all the whippersnappers were up to, expecting to feel every bit as disillusioned as all the articles on how social media is wrecking our generation primed me to feel. Weirdly, though, the opposite happened. I can wholeheartedly and genuinely say that I think we all ought to download Snapchat — not because it's fun, or because we need something to keep us occupied in the thirty seconds we're peeing at work, but because there are actual psychological benefits to Snapchat that will improve your life.
It Encourages You To Share The Messy Bits
In my realm of friends, I tend to see the same social media habits across the board — they very rarely, if ever, post on Facebook; they will post once a week to Instagram; they will bite their nails over the one tweet they put out a day. The more well-known, popular social media platforms are where we feel pressured to put out our "highlight reels". We post about the major events in our lives, post only the best pictures, and the rest of our legitimate, true-to-life, often crappy and hilarious and weird human experience gets swallowed up in the effort.
Enter Snapchat — it's the place where "stuff you wouldn't put anywhere else" tends to go. It's erased in a day, so it isn't your ~legacy~, but you're still sharing it. Your friends get a glimpse of what a hot mess you really are, and you get a glimpse of what hot messes they really are, and everybody feels better knowing that they're not secretly the one gremlin who didn't catch up to the rest of the pack on the Adulthood Express.
It Promotes A Weird Kind Of Intimacy
One of the essential human motivations in life is to have a strong sense of "belongingness". It's the reason humans have been so successful at the whole propagating the species business — that same impulse to root for the Seahawks with your squad is some sad biological echo of banding together for literal survival back in the "hey, Rob, let's go hunt a wilderbeest to feed our fams for the winter" days.
Using Snapchat weirdly promotes that same kind of intimacy, that same "belongingness". In a world where we so frequently don't have time to catch up with our older friends, or even spend time with the ones near us, we still have this mutual, conveniently-packaged version of sharing what's going on with each other. I may not see a friend of mine for a few months before either of us get to visit, but using Snapchat I am still privy to the offbeat, weird parts of her day that we would have discussed with each other, and not just the big moments that are up for everyone's consumption on other social media. Having "stories" is an easy, no pressure way for us all to stay connected, to still "belong" to each other, to still have that biologically necessary squad mentality even in friendships that are separated by a great distance.
You Feel Like You Have Invisible Cheerleaders On Your Side
By nature of Snapchat being the "social media dumping ground" (i.e., the place where you put all the non-perfect parts of your day) and the comfort of knowing it will all get deleted in a day, it is essentially the most vulnerable of social media apps we use. We expose ourselves to each other in ways that we wouldn't necessarily do in real life, but this time there is no obligation to like, or comment, or validate it in some way. You are validated in some quiet, assuring way just by being able to see that friends looked and knowing that they cared enough to look. They know that your feed is boring and unenlightened and occasionally riddled with self-indulgent selfies (#guilty), but they've still got your back.
It Promotes Honesty In All Of Your Relationships
Our senior multimedia editor Ro and I were talking with some #teens about their Snapchat use and how it affects their social lives, and one of the answers we got really surprised us: It forced them to be more honest. Their generation has embraced the glory of Snapchat faster than ours did, to the point where friends will often Snap each other at events without bothering to warn them, and then post it on their Stories for all their mutual friends to see. It goes to follow, then, that it would be extremely stupid of you to lie and say you were with someone else or doing something else only to get outted by your friends online. The teens have reacted by doing what we have passive-aggressively avoided doing since the dawn of social media: actually telling each other when they have plans, instead of making stuff up to get out of it and leaving both parties feeling confused. Seeing as the American Psychological Association found that lying less is linked to better health, you can go ahead and thank Snapchat for your low key immortality.
It Makes You Feel More Grateful For What You Have In Your Life
I know I'm not the only one who replays their Story to themselves at the end of the day — not just to see who looked, but to see the weird journey of the last 24 hours of my life. We don't often take the time to sit around and appreciate what we have, but having a catalogue of your daily moments, even the silly, ugly, less shiny ones, makes you remember that you're a pretty lucky human. It's like having a visual gratitude journal that eats itself at the end of the day. So watch your Story, and watch all your friends' Stories, and maybe have one of those HOLY CRAP I AM A CITIZEN OF THIS GLORIOUS EARTH AND I SNAPCHATTED A RACCOON TODAY moments every now and then. You earned it.
Images: Emma Lord/Bustle; Giphy