Editorial Notebook

Sending the right Snapchat is a science

A few nights ago one of my friends from home, Kendall, called me to ask for advice. It was simultaneously one of the most rational and irrational conversations I’ve ever had.

She started by telling me about a Friday night when she went to a party with one of her friends at his frat. Halfway through the night, she met a guy who was, in her words, “pretty much my exact type,” which was enough to give me a pretty clear picture of what he looked like. He would be tall, lanky, with longer hair, and a boyish charm. The kind of guy who would skateboard to class and probably call his mom at least a couple times a week. We can call him Tyler.

She started talking to him, giving him the typical eye-batting and arm-touching treatment.

“I told him he should get a frog, actually. A Chinese dwarf frog, since they’re the easiest to take care of,” she said.

As the night ended, she and her friend were about to leave. She said goodbye to the guys she was with, and when she got to Tyler, he pulled out his phone. He claimed to need tutoring in his classes, since they were in the same major (forget the fact that he was a year ahead of her and probably in none of her classes).

“You should really snapchat me sometime,” he said.

“Or, you could snapchat me,” she came back with.

“I’m pretty drunk right now, I probably won’t remember to.”

So, she went upstairs and ended up waiting for her friend to say goodbye to his crowd of friends on this level of the house. Tyler came up, made a bee-line for her, and leaned in close.

“Hey, I’m gonna be honest, do you wanna go make out with me in the dish pit?” he asked.

“The what?”

She ended up saying no; she had to leave with her friend in a minute.

“When I said that I swear to god this boy looked at me like no one—not his mother, friends, anyone—in his life had ever told him no before.”

So, she left and now it was a day later. They hadn’t talked since, and this was where she needed my advice. Should she snapchat him first?

“Yeah of course, he told you to,” I say.

“Well yeah, but I don’t wanna seem desperate.”

“No way, that’s crazy. Just snap him.”

So, then came the next issue, what does she say?

“Honestly, I would probably just send something simple and non-committal. Maybe just like a corner of your face and a ‘hey,’” I suggested.

“That’s it? Or should I say ‘hey, whats up?’”

“Yeah, maybe that’s better. It’d start a conversation.”

“No just send him a streak message, even if it’s just to him,” chimed in my friend, Jamie, next to me, who had been listening to our conversation. (A streak message is a snapchat you send to all of the people you keep a streak with once a day.)

“Wait, but shouldn’t she introduce the conversation first? What if he doesn’t remember?” I ask.

“He probably remembers, you met him pretty early in the night and he can see that he added a new person. He definitely connected the dots,” she says to Kendall.

“Yeah, that’s true. What if he leaves me on read, though? It’s just a streak message,” she answered.

“Yeah, I feel like that’s not a very significant introduction,” I added.

“It’s like, the most low-risk way to start snapchatting though, ’cause he’ll probably answer to say hello.”

“No, wait, she’s right, that way you can gauge his interest by seeing if he responds. He’ll only answer if he really wants to talk to you. If you start with ‘what’s up,’ he has to answer.”

So we decided on the fake streak message. She asked me what the picture should be, and I told her the exact picture I would send if I was her. A mirror selfie—to be more casual than a regular selfie, which would come off as vain. It should be decorated with a bunch of stickers, so it shows effort put into the snap, but not a lot. One of the stickers should be a “streak” gif, so he would know it went to all of her streaks. We even told her to bring her toothbrush to the bathroom so it would look like she was on her way to bed.

“Wait should they all be gifs or should some just be normal stickers?”

“All gifs is too distracting, only some of them.”

So, she went to the bathroom, took a few selfies and asked which was best, I told her the second one.

“Do I put a filter on it?” Kendall asked.

“No, only use filters if it’s a picture with friends.”

“Yeah, but the color filters are okay.”

So, she decorated her unfiltered bathroom mirror selfie with stickers color-coordinated to her blue shirt and including a frog, in case he remembered her suggestion.

“Wait, it’s midnight. It’s totally too late to send this!” she exclaimed, worried that all of our hard work would go to waste.

“No this is, like, peak hour for frat boys, don’t worry.”

And finally, after almost an hour of debating, planning, and reassuring, she sent him the Snapchat. A picture that this boy probably looked at for less than eight seconds (the amount of time we decided to set the timer to). In the grand scheme of things, every detail we agonized over may have been meaningless. But, what if they weren’t? What if just one detail was the difference between an answer and no answer?

Though it seemed meticulous, maybe even a little insane, every detail mattered. The setting, timing, stickers, filters—they all carry their own weight, and we’ve learned to recognize the message each detail sends. We’ve created our own science: “Snapchat psychology.” Practiced by millennials across the nation, “Snapchat psychology” is our form of poetry. Rather than choosing the perfect way to describe our crushes’ bright blue eyes or just how kissable their lips are, we are choosing the perfect angle for our Snapchats. Instead of choosing the best first date outfit, we’re choosing the best filter for our first snap. In place of “going steady” we’re mutual number one best friends. Social media has created an entirely new way for young people to interact, and therefore an entirely new set of social norms and expectations.

And we are taking notes and studying-up.