In one of our of recent MEDIAGIRLS classes, we asked 11 girls in middle school if they would quit Snapchat today if their friends agreed to as well. We told them to keep their hands down if they enjoyed Snapchat and found it fun. Every single girl raised her hand. When we asked why, they said, “It’s the streaks, they’re exhausting” and “way too much pressure.” They commiserated that it started first thing in the morning and lasted all day, and is “just too much.”
Let’s back up…
As you are probably aware, teens are all over Snapchat. In fact, the social-media platform happens to be their fan-favorite, not just because it allows them to send their friends photos and videos with silly filters, but because it has become one of their main sources of chatting among their friends. From the time they get up until they go to bed, teens are using the features of Snapchat to be in constant communication with their friends.
Instead of texting, Snapchat is the new way for teens to stay in touch, but it has become increasingly addictive with the added feature of Snapstreaks. Here’s how it works: If you send a snap to a friend multiple days in a row, a number will appear with emojis next to their contact name. So if you and your friend have a Snapstreak of 37, that means you have been sending each other snaps back and forth for 37 days. When you are about to lose a Snapstreak, meaning it’s been almost 24 hours since your last Snapchat interaction with the other person, Snapchat warns you by putting the hourglass emoji next to your Snapstreak number. Time is running out!
We asked our MEDIAGIRLS youth advisory board, made of preteens and teens, for their take on Snapstreaks, and you’ll read their responses through the rest of this article. Naomi F. sees the experience as mostly positive: “I personally like them because I like keeping in contact with my friends, and their snaps are always hilarious. They are fun to do because it’s kind of a challenge to keep up with, but I get how much pressure it can be to keep up with them once you have reached the 100-day mark.”
It’s this pressure that Naomi F. refers to that is the biggest problem with Snapstreaks, according to our participants, as well as recent research. According to Business Insider, the constant need to keep up Snapstreaks makes them stressful to those who use them, and has become a way for tweens and teens to put a number value on their relationships; in their world, this translates to the higher the Snapstreak, the stronger the friendship.
As Shira M. describes, oftentimes, Snapstreaks are a crucial determinant of who is a best friend, and who’s just a friend. “I have even had a friend say to me once that we needed to get a Snapstreak going, because if we didn’t, I couldn’t be on her best friends list on Snapchat,” she says. Because teens are on Snapchat so often, too, this obsession can hurt their friendships in the real world. Maisie K, another youth advisor, explains, “It really annoys me when I’m hanging out with my friends, and instead of talking to me, they check their Snapchat. It’s so infuriating!”
Break a streak, break a friendship
And the more teens use it, the more they value Snapstreaks. In fact, breaking a Snapstreak among teens can break a friendship. To some, breaking a streak means the other person didn’t care about the time and effort put into creating it in the first place. Our youth advisor Sola A. describes, “There’s pressure to keep the streak going, even if it results in stress caused by the fear that if you break it, your friends will think you don’t like them anymore.” Teens don’t want to be seen as bad friends, so they’re motivated to constantly keep up. Hence the exhaustion.
Sasha K. adds that Snapstreaks may seem less harmful because they don’t offer the same reciprocation as a “like” on Instagram, and there’s no way for anyone else to see who you have your streaks with and for how long. Regardless of these differences, though, Snapstreaks still manipulate girls into believing they’ll let down their friends if they aren’t constantly maintaining the streak.
TRY THIS: On its own, Snapchat is not inherently bad. Girls enjoy using the app to send silly pictures with filters to their friends, and it’s far less “polished” and curated than Instagram. But it is important for girls to be attuned to how it makes them feel. As Annie S. eloquently explains, “If you can be confident in yourself and know that sending pictures on an app doesn’t define you, it’s fun, but if you find yourself at all stressed about it, then it’s not worth it.”
If your girl(s) are on Snapchat, ask them the same questions we asked of our Youth Advisory Board: Do you engage in Snapstreaks? Do you think they’re good or bad for girls, and why? From there, guage their responses, and if they don’t think there’s a problem with Snapstreaks, help them understand the potentially harmful aspects at stake by sharing other girls’ responses – that way you don’t look preachy. Sending silly pictures to friends is harmless, but if girls feel pressured to stay on top of Snapstreaks day or night out of fear their friendships might shatter, the grown-ups in their lives can offer an alternative prospective.
Read more #MediaMondayTips to help the girls in your life navigate complicated media messages!