Welcome back to Parental Advisory, where I answer all of your social media and IRL parenting etiquette questions. This week, let's talk about Snapchat.
I've managed to hide most of my oversharing friends on FB and Instagram, but now they've got me with the Snaps.
It's not that I don't like kids; I'm more indifferent towards them. I have three nephews and love them dearly, but my siblings know I don't need to see pictures of them every day. One particular friend on Snapchat, though, sends daily kid snaps. I'd just block her outright, but she does occasionally send funny things going on in her life. I've never responded at all to any of her kid snaps, though I will occasionally respond to a funny snap during a night out.
If these kid snaps were just posted to her story, I'd have no issue, but she's taking the time to select my name and send them to me, and honestly, I don't care. How do I let her know without offending her? Is that even possible?
Childless in Chicago
Sometimes I get the impression that people ask if they're "allowed" to tell their friends to stop posting/doing/saying something online because they just want permission to say whatever they want to say. Other times, I think it's because they want someone to talk them down and help rationalize why telling friends what to do online is never a good idea. In this case, I'm going to go with the latter. Maybe you just need someone to vent to, Childless in Chicago! And that's OK. That person can be me. And trust me, I know people can get a little cray on Snapchat, because I often get submissions like this:
As much as I'd like to be able to tell you to just block your friend (which it sounds like you're reluctant to do) or gently explain to her that you don't need to see these consistent/daily kid snaps, the pragmatic answer is to try to let it go.
The annoying thing is that as adults, we're all operating under certain notions of etiquette that tell us to be patient, tolerant and kind. This means that even when our friends start using their social media apps the way tweens use them, we'd be rude to call them out. It means that when people make the false assumption that you want to see pictures or videos of their kids every day, it would be inappropriate to ask them to please stop. The one exception to this rule is the hide or mute feature that some social media platforms offer (which doesn't alert the person to the fact that you're hiding/muting them), but that function doesn't exist on Snapchat, and even if it did, you'd never see her snaps again. It sounds like you do occasionally enjoy seeing some of her snaps and engaging, which takes the block feature off the table like you mentioned.
Therefore, your only real options are to: 1) Ask her to stop sending you the snaps, which is probably not going to go over very well (and might even rupture your friendship); 2) Not open the snaps, which isn't a great option because the notifications will always be sitting there; 3) Unfollow her and check the box that says you don't accept snaps from people you're not following; or 4) Ignore the snaps and slowly go crazy until you either block or unfollow her. Unfollowing might be the best of all the options — when you're ready to let her snaps go, of course — and it's worth considering that she could very well be sending these daily kid snaps to everyone she's friends with on Snapchat and might not even notice if you disappear.
The truth is that a lot of parents are on the right track when they try to protect their kids from overexposure on the internet (and protect their friends from being overexposed to 24/7 kid stuff), but the way they go about reducing that overexposure in one area — say, in their personal Facebook feed — can result in overexposure in another, like daily direct message snaps on Snapchat. Proud parents can have a tough time balancing the amount of kidformation they're feeding to their friends.
After years of articles about oversharing and the explosively viral app Unbaby.me, parents are aware that their friends don't always want Facebook to be a baby book. Some parents handle this by reducing the number of photos and videos, while others might open opt-in Facebook pages dedicated to all things baby. But Snapchat is one of those apps that came along without instructions or a series of articles telling people exactly how to use it. It relies on creative content shot through the eyes of the subjective user, and when people send each other snaps, there's a lot of gray area regarding what's acceptable or fun.
In this way, sending snaps is more like texting, where texters can feel each other out and mimic their friend's behavior for efficient communication. For instance, some people prefer sending big blocks of text, so when I engage with them, I don't tell a story over 25 separate texts. I can gather from their texting behavior that 25-plus texts in a row will drive them nuts. But with other friends, those short lines of text might be more apt. The same goes with emoji; you probably wouldn't send a single line with 13 emoji to someone who never uses emoji because you would look like an 11-year-old. We're all riding a narrow line when we use these apps, and for many of us, knowing how to use them without being annoying is a fluid guessing game. And for some parents, the fact that they can send several kid snaps per day means that, for now, they will. But something tells me that behavior could be short-lived.
We all use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest differently now than we did two, three or five years ago. Snapchat will be the same, and in many ways already is, with users switching up the frequency with which they use filters along with their engagement with the app in general. Snapping is fun for now for your friend, whose kid is only barely younger than Snapchat itself, but soon your friend will either get bored of using the app or get bored of sending the daily snaps (over using the main story function). It's also possible that you will stop using Snapchat too. The beauty of having so many social platforms is realizing that the more new platforms launch and compete with each other, the greater the chances are that our relationships to these platforms will change too. And at the end of the day, isn't that healthier for everyone?
I say there's no rush in unfollowing her, but don't give it a second thought if you do. Life is too short to worry about someone else noticing that we stopped following along with them on Snapchat. Social media will always have its drawbacks, but that doesn't mean you aren't allowed to curate your feeds and opt out of kid snaps when they feel like a chore. That said, if you do decide to ask your friend not to include you in her daily kid snaps, you should definitely snap it to her after applying a filter. The vampire filter will make you look like a serial killer, but the deer or the puppy filters should work like a charm.
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